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Review: Dance by the Riverside by Jordan Okrend

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Dance by the Riverside by Jordan OkrendDance by the Riverside by Jordan Okrend

Asheville, NC based singer-songwriter Jordan Okrend is back with his 4th album. Following up 2015’s World Keeps Turnin’  The Jordan Okrend Experience’s latest release, Dance by the Riverside, is available now. Describing his goals for this project, Okrend said, ”The emphasis is on speaking to the human experience. I hope this album inspires and uplifts all who hear it.”

Dance by the Riverside opens with “Unknown Love.” With an eclectic array of musical weapons, “Unknown Love” hits with a heavy jazz vibe from the opening notes and goes on to feature a percussion backed horn solo that puts musicianship front and center. There is something old school romantic about this track that is soulfully addicting. The classic yet contemporary feel continues on “Stranded.” The jazzy horns reappear but “Stranded” lets the guitars fly which is always something special when Okrend is strumming the strings.

The upbeat title track “Dance by the Riverside” delves into a world that invites listeners to break from the shackles of modern society that prevent them from experiencing the freedom found in the simplicity of things like nature. One of the album’s several standouts, “Dance by the Riversidechanges things up tone wise by painting a picture about living life to the fullest and leaving baggage behind. Musically, the hooks grab you, but there is also a point where the horn and guitar take turns being showcased and it is as if they are engaged in conversation. “Tomorrow” and “Infinity” continue the positivity with “Tomorrow,” in particular, sounding like personal growth set to sound while the guitar playing on “Infinity” creates a funky desire to groove along. “Changing My Mind” opens with aspiring acoustic guitar and lyrically tells the story about the benefits of being in the right relationship and how that can change a person for the better. It is airy, fun and my favorite on the release.

The final two tracks on Dance by the Riverside epitomize Okrend as a musical poet activist. The attention grabbing drum work that kicks off “Join Me” sounds unlike any of the previous songs’ opening moments and works as a sort of sonic call to action. With lyrics like “I was born to be free/Won’t you come and join me?” this song is his invitation to everyone to break free from the confines that keep most of us feeling locked in a box. Part of what makes Okrend standout is his ability to weave together tunes that catch your ear while delivering a socially conscious message, something of a lost art. Relying solely on his impressive vocal range and guitar skills, “Unity” is a call for people to come together and end the divisiveness that tears us apart. Lyrically relevant and beautiful in its simplicity, “Unity” is the perfect bookend on another great effort by Okrend. 

Infusing jazz with hints of pop and funk to create a niche sound that is all his own but that everyone can enjoy, Okrend’s latest offering delivers in a big way. Soulful vocals in the vein of Amos Lee and Allen Stone, expert instrumentation that includes everything from electric guitars to horns, and meaningful lyrics that go to the heart of life makes listening to Dance by the Riverside not only just a good time, but an experience.

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