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  • Jonathan Widran

ROBERT LAROCHE, A Thousand Shades

In 2016, almost a quarter century after The Sighs ruled the summer of ’92 with their rambunctious smash “Think About Soul” and toured with The Gin Blossoms and Spin Doctors, the New England power pop greats reunited and released a new album, Wait on Another Day. While their fans were no doubt delighted, many probably weren’t aware that the band’s charismatic lead singer Robert LaRoche (who formed the group in 1982) had recently launched his long awaited solo debut Patient Man, which largely reflected his longtime passions for American roots music.

The now Austin based singer/songwriter keeps his later career momentum thriving with a stunning six-track EP whose varying energies and stylistic and groove diversity perfectly reflect its clever title A Thousand Shades. The opening track is a glorious slice of plaintive, jangling country-Americana that ruminates over just where the “Seeds of Doubt” were first sown in a failed relationship. It pushes all the poignant emotional buttons with the help of lush vocal harmonies, sultry fiddle and plucky mandolin.

The same type of harmonies, rendered in sparkly Beach Boys fashion, get the shimmering retro-60’s flavored “Drawn to You” off to a great start. Driven by somewhat distorted dreamy vocals and Birds’ like electric guitar sparkle, it’s a simple song of attraction and loyalty. With its blend of old school rock sounds and contemporary, steel guitar and fiddle laced Americana, the title track is perhaps the best showcase of his skills as an emotional storyteller. “Jet Blue” is something else entirely, a raw garage band styled funky rumbler that recalls the The Sighs’ brilliant blend of dreaminess and rough edge pop/rock energy.

With his most impassioned singing of the set, one wonders if the reflective, melancholy but cautiously optimistic, classically tinged mid-tempo ballad “Too Much At Once” refers in any way to his thoughts about his years with The Sighs. Hopefully for fans of that band, just like the spirited closing track “The Dream is Gone,” it’s more about a romance that’s gone sideways than reflective of his future career plans.

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