The Fall Risk is a San Francisco-based band founded by Jeff Pehrson, most known for his time with Box Set and now singing with Furthur. The Fall Risk features ex-members of Box Set along with a new cast of musical craftsmen. Focussing their groove on Americana, Roots and a little Folk Rock, their music can overtake you, from the story telling of broken hearts and broken promises, to breaking free and rediscovering.
Coming back together in 2009, former members of Box Set (which was another Bay Area band that disbanded in 2006) Jeff Pehrson (acoustic guitar and vocals), Matt Twain (keyboards and vocals), Sammy Johnston (organ, pedal steel, accordion, harmonica), and Mark Abbott (drums and percussion) have reinvented themselves into The Fall Risk. Adding Rich Goldstein (rhythm guitar, slide guitar), Mike Sugar (bass), and Phil Savell (lead guitar), they have come up with a stellar first CD, blending incredible musicianship with relatable lyrics that paint pictures of daily life, whether it’s just about a girl, a road trip, finding your spirit, or a nod to a favorite candy bar….. Seemingly a little something that anyone can relate to, make their own. As Jeff said to me, “once the songs are done, recorded, and the person buys the CD, you know, its not my song anymore, its their song. So, if they want to insert their own experience in the song, and you know, decide what they think it’s about, that’s fine too.”
Their initial offering consists of nine songs, each one painting a new picture for the listener’s imagination. Their music is very easy-going, easy on the ears, easy on the swing and sway of your hips, easy on the heart and mind, easy on the souls of your feet. This first release just might be a big surprise for the 2013 Americana music scene. To me, ‘Americana’ is a term that describes the music of life; a little something, a little story that everyone can relate to. Traveling songs. Love songs. Just life, straightforward. They evoke a mood of the simple life – boy meets girl; travel the country; discovering who you are and where you want to be. Uncomplicated yet filled with sounds that you have to bend your ear to appreciate – with their diversity in use of instruments that play against their colorful lyrics and sweet harmonies, their music defines that effortless combination that makes you want to move. It is definitely a CD you can play a few times in a row, and each listen, you’ll enjoy it as much as your first.
Opening with “Cross My Heart”, the disc has that acoustic-based sound, with a strong electric guitar presence, steady organs, and rolling beat that you can tap your toes or maybe even get up and dance around the room too. The sweet guitar solo that takes your spirit, about two-thirds through the song, drives the chorus, “I don’t need forgiveness, no, to play my part, cross my heart.”
Jeff’s voice lends a raspy sweetness to their sound, Matt’s blended harmonies sweeten the chorus, and sweet guitars and peddle steel tossed in here and there, they can move easily into that southern nights feel and shout out to the folk and american roots base. It is very danceable music – the acoustic and electric guitars flowing through and around Jeff’s voice, mix in an incredible guitar solo that soars around the bass and beat of the drums and I dare you not to get up and move. Like with “Ode” – fast paced beat, strong electric lead, sweet harmonies and a touch of the acoustic guitar keeping soft rhythm, steady – this one has it all.
My favorite song on the disc is “Angeline”. It is the third track in so you have to wait for it, but once you get there, you might not want to leave. Put it on loop and let it go! This one, to me, is a perfect example of what the guys in The Fall Risk are about, what they are feeling and thinking when they create something like this one. The line, “A red harvest moon and a dress to see through, with further ado, Angeline” paired with the steady rhythm of the drums and strum of the acoustic, gives you that southern summer night feeling, maybe “sleeping on the banks of a 3-part harmony.”
Following, is “Hollow”, a song that has more meaning to it each listen. The opening line, “Thirty years have passed like tides, and overwhelmed me” gives you that sense that there is indeed more to this than the lightness to the music that accompanies. It has a quick beat to start, about 15 seconds in starts the electric guitar leading the song down a path to discovery. That seems to be what this song is about. How to resist falling in line, taking a step out where it isn’t so safe, to find what makes you more than hollow. This is one of those songs that will have a million interpretations, depending on the listener’s perspective on the lyrics and life.
The easiness of “LeClaire”, as with the initial song, is very catchy and may turn to be another radio hit along with “Cross My Heart” and “Angeline”. Its just got that summer-time vacation kind of feel to it, as Jeff signs about traveling a highway, standing on the river bend, the thick Mississippi air, somewhere in LeClaire.
The title of the last song on the disc is an acronym, leaving you wondering what it stands for as there is no clear explanation in the lyrics. Since JBO will have a chance to chat with Jeff Pehrson of the Fall Risk, the man who pens the songs, we will certainly inquire as to what, “HBWA” means. As I listen to what Jeff is singing, its a song about a young guy ready to break from home. He’s had a strong upbringing, hard working dad and caring mother, ready to take what he’s learned and go out in the world… Is he a dancer, an author, a dreamer? No matter. Boy hasn’t discovered himself yet, but he certainly has discovered a girl. And what a girl, “She’s as young as rising sun, as cool as an evening breeze. She’s got music in her blood, and a heart full of harmony’s needs.”
I wasn’t exactly sure what the disc would be like, since I hadn’t heard their music nor was I largely into Box Set. But, knowing Jeff’s talent as a singer and doing a little research on him in advance of my interview, I knew I’d like what I heard. (Find it under our “Interviews” section, we discussed the formation of the band, the creation of the disc, their live shows, and of course, that fateful day when he got the call to join Bob Weir and Phil Lesh as a singer with Furthur)
And, hey, if you live in Northern California, do not miss out on The Fall Risk’s CD release party! It’s taking place on Saturday, August 17 at The Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Vally. Show time is 8:00, with the Josh McIntosh Three opening. Get your tickets in advance and get a free copy of their debut CD, “Volume No. 1”, a soundboard of the night’s show, and access to a meet and greet with the band for pictures and CD signing!
1. Cross My Heart, 2. Wendy Ann, 3. Angeline, 4. Hollow, 5. LeClaire, 6. ODE, 7. Cry, 8. Cry Baby Cry, 9. HBWA