Rob Roper follows his widely-praised 2011 release Misfit with The Other Side of Nowhere, an acoustic guitar-based collection of eight songs. The album features Paul Ermisch on violin. It includes four new compositions, one cover, and three reinterpretations of previously-released songs.
"Not only did I have some new songs I wanted to record," says Roper, "but I also wanted to capture how Paul and I have sounded as a live, acoustic duo the last couple of years."
Lyrically, The Other Side of Nowhere continues Roper's themes of dissatisfaction, frustration, failed relationships, and the search for identity, often presented with the wry, self-deprecating humor and hard-won hopefulness of someone who's been around the block enough times to have gained some real wisdom. His writing is often spare, but never simplistic, evoking in a few lines what a less skillful songwriter might need several verses to express. Musically, the new CD differs from Misfit in that the guitars are all acoustic and the primary lead instrument is Ermisch's violin. However, as in his other releases, Roper experiments with an eclectic combination of styles: rock, country, folk, and elements of blues and jazz.
"Acoustic" doesn't mean sweet and soothing. "Sea of Hope," "Let's Go to the Mountains," and "Let it Go" are upbeat rockers including hand drums and bass. "Initially I planned the record to be just Paul and me," Roper points out, "but things escalated during the recording process."
The title song and the cover "Trouble on the Way" by Timmy Riordan have an edgy country vibe. "I loved 'Trouble on the Way' the first time I heard it," says Roper, "and have been covering it at shows ever since." "The Man in the Movies," the softest, most subtle song on the CD, is a tiny gem featuring a haunting cello accompaniment.
The three previously recorded songs -- "Misfit", "Let it Go," and "Falling into Heaven" -- are featured here with entirely new arrangements. "Misfit," the title song of Roper's 2011 CD, is done here in a jazz/blues style-- drums with brushes, acoustic bass, and a bluesy violin by Ermisch. Roper even adds a short guitar solo-- his only one on the record. "Let it Go", from Roper's first DIY demo album, "Some Songs I Wrote," is performed here in a more aggressive style, with Daren Hahn's 4-on-the-floor cajon, Brian Hunter's electric bass, and a downright evil violin part and sizzling solo by Ermisch. The new version of "Falling into Heaven" eschews its former layered electric guitars in favor or Roper simply finger-picking an acoustic guitar, with a minimal and mellow violin part by Ermisch.
Denver photographer and singer-songwriter Scott McCormick designed the CD artwork. "I still believe," Roper said, "that there are other people besides me who want something visually interesting to look at when they're listening to the music. And I think Scott captured the lyrical themes well with his design."