Antonio Lopez’ voice sits delicately perched at the center of his fourth full-length release, Roots & Wings. The fragile purity of his vocal delivery as the record’s focus proves a point: When given a proper chance, an honest voice can rise to previously un-reached heights.
Like a photojournalistic snapshot hung in a gallery, Roots & Wings (out January 1) frames Lopez’ soft-spoken, even precious vocal in a format which does him a great service. Mark Venezia’s creative, respectful production (and the subsequent musical personnel) elevate Lopez’ music, turning the listener’s ear to lean in more closely.
A direct, folky mix evoking Luke Temple’s acoustic efforts and the cooing of Valerie June’s almost consonant-less, rootsy soul, Roots & Wings presents some expected folk/Americana band arrangements, but there are some cool surprises too. Most notably, Jonathan Sadler’s marimba on “Going to the City” adds a refreshing nuance and texture to the song’s slightly dark climax wherein Lopez laments: “to grow further from nature is the nature of the man.”
Sadler’s idiophonic touches and Kyle Donovan’s guitar work are great throughout, even pulling out some noodly jazz pop chops on “Elemental Love.”
Two co-writes with Donovan pepper the tracklist as well. “Too Much Too Soon,” a doo-wop stab at a cute, sad love story who’s narrator simply tries to hard, and “‘42 Ford” which resonates with John Cougar Mellenkamp-style American realism.
“The New Warrior” gives a sparse, blues-forward four-on-the-floor beneath some of Lopez’ best lyrics: “She uses her quiver of words carefully – a century on a cushion.” This, the stompiest of the mostly soft collection, also features a soulful vocal flourish by Kate Farmer.
“That Old House” lets Lopez do his solo thing with just an acoustic guitar and his touching vocal vulnerability. It’s a welcome reminder of how the band lets Lopez breathe. As the executive director of the music/empowerment nonprofit Sound Bridge and having funded Roots & Wings via Kickstarter, Lopez knows well that respectful contributions from those who back you is a gift as precious as family and as freeing as flight.