The new full length from singer-songwriter Trent Rice is an album that Kurt Vonnegut would have described as unstuck in time — it permeates boundaries and borders at free will. The LP is exceptionally congruent yet the songs maintain their own identity and make earnest statements on the condition of the space age primate. Each track has been crafted according to the watermarks of Rice’s memories, channeling his experiences as a father, a husband, a musician, a surgeon, and a human on an empathic quest to explore the heart.
Beautiful is an examination of enigmatic intrigue. Rice dissects raw feeling and stitches it together with mindful precision. At times both ideals claw at each other, and at others they embrace in order to harvest the hardships and elegantly complex wonders of day-to-day drudgery. In other instances, they summon to mind the eternal chatter of Manhattan humming through the static of city traffic. There’s also flashbangs of underfunded surgery in Africa and the bourbon beat of Nashville.
The range of sounds and emotions exhibited on Beautiful ring the doorbell of modernity while at the same time evoking conversations between an early garage-grunge ethos, pre-electric Dylan, and outtakes from the White Album. Rice largely performed the album live, preferring to track the bulk of his lead vocals and the sandpaper jangle of his six-string shooter on single, full takes. The resulting tracks offer the listener a mix of intimacy and ecstatic energy. “It’s OK,” for instance, was recorded on an iPhone in Rice’s kitchen where you can hear the pitter patter of his young daughter in the background. Then there are songs like “Her Mr.” that place Rice in the great American storytelling tradition, recalling the tragic tale of a bomber pilot separated overseas from his beloved family in the midst of World War II.
Beautiful is one of the last recording projects to emerge from the Cottage studios, a buried treasure of a dream that was a major fixture in the Atlanta music scene. There are so many gifts of personage to this album that it makes it uniquely humble in the way it gives thanks and takes appreciation. Rice’s vocal performances are large, dark and hauntingly touching as if they were a benevolent spectre beckoning from the corner of the night sky like a moonlit beacon. The poetry of his words and musicality wander the waxworks of the last moments of the Cottage, grunting and grinding subtly in the background. They capture the native frequencies that inhabited that studio space and slept for so many years beside the magnetic tapes, mixing boards, automated anomalies, vintage amps, and modern processors. The cultivation of these spirits of vibration and Rice’s melodic labors of love create an electrifying ear-print that is truly, well… beautiful.
Beautiful is out today.
Trent Rice will celebrate the release of Beautiful tomorrow, April 8, at Taproom Coffee. He will be supported by Slow Parade. Doors open at 7 p.m. Admission is FREE. All ages.