Louisiana native Crash’s – aka Chris Richard – first solo album, Hardly Criminal, resists easy labels. The laissez-faire groove of the title song showcases his powerfully vulnerable vocals, containing a nice, self-reflective lyrical turnaround. On “Motion Animal,” he takes on the swagger of a “Miss You”-era Jagger, and adds an R & B horn section on the gospel-tinged “Go Tell It on the Mountain” chorus.
That funky moment proves to be an anomaly. On the rest of the album, he tackles New Orleans street jazz (“If God was a Cajun”), backcountry swing (“All My Friends”), and classic folk (“Song for the Birds”), styles unified by his distinctively pretty falsetto and occasional native drawl.
His time spent with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (Crash is their percussionist and co-vocalist) must have rubbed off, as there’s a swooning optimism throughout the material, with a family-band type feel and the occasional modern touch, like the keyboard and warped effects of “Britches Catch Fire.” “High Wall” recalls the spirit of that other boundary-breaker, Neil Young, with lyrics inspired by his evacuation during Katrina.
It seems a fitting testament to survival, and it leaves me hoping we hear more from this eclectic, independent artist.