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David Raybuck’s “The Prodigal”

You won’t find any of the inauthentic props that have become commonplace in pop music in David Raybuck’s new song “The Pathway.” You also won’t find any false foundations, like synthetic harmonies or a badly recycled rhythm, in the song’s parent album, The Prodigal. Fake admissions are nowhere to be heard in the lyricism, and when it’s down to only Raybuck and a barebones melody that needs a lot of grooming to sound transcendent, he comes through for us victoriously with nothing more than a strong voice and a heartfelt verse.

In The Prodigal, David Raybuck relies on pure artistry alone in crafting an original LP packed with fine solo material and conceptual recordings that bring to mind some of the best music the folk-rock genre has ever been known to produce, and though his approach to songwriting isn’t the only one of its kind around these days, it hasn’t been lifted from the repertoire of anyone else in the game. If the main goal here was to make a record exhibiting his aesthetic of self as the primary focus, he hit this one out of the park.

The production quality aside, I don’t know that it would be fair to characterize The Prodigal as anything other than a raw, uncut release with some radio-ready finishing for the sake of making certain rough edges just a bit more palatable for the masses. Raybuck puts himself out there in “Long Time Coming” and “My Suffering,” contemplates aloud in “In the Shadow of Your Wings,” “Hosanna” and “The Pathway,” and finds the right instrumental voice to tell his story for him in “Dwell,” “Who’s My Neighbor,” the title track and “Desert Ride,” and even goes out of his way to play against his own strengths in the experimental “Words of the Teacher,” “Be Healed” and the simplistic crown jewel “Abide.” He wants to go into areas of his sound that were perhaps too out-there in his biggest influences’ first go-round in the studio here, but he’s making certain that for every bold statement he makes, there’s a bit of mainstream melodicism present for new listeners to relate to and, eventually, connect with.

Those audiences who have yet to hear the debut works of David Raybuck would do well to take a look at his new record The Prodigal, as it is undoubtedly the most mature and well-thought-out album to debut out of his local scene this month and successfully introduces a world hungry for bittersweet pop balladry to a man who makes the very sort of music we need now more than ever. There are a lot of artists essentially trying to accomplish the same things that Raybuck is at this still early stage of his career, but there are so few actually able to put together the constructive commentarial LP that he has in The Prodigal. He needs to avoid the temptation to overindulge in the bigger harmonies he creates in the future, but other than that, I think that he can be trusted to come up with some really interesting music as we look on to the rest of the decade ahead.

Cleopatra Patel

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