In the 1924 George S. Kaufman-Marc Connelly stage play, Beggar on Horseback, a struggling composer has to choose between creating music to stimulate his soul or spending his life working in a widget factory. Although what a widget refers to is never fully explained, it’s some kind of mechanical product lacking in artistic or spiritual value. Now in control of their career, and releasing Ricochet Reloaded – Hits Plus, their first album of new music in eight years, multiple-award-winning band Ricochet can relate to that kind struggle. Yet they have found a way to strike a satisfying balance: working in a widget factory of sorts, yet all the while earning the opportunity to make soul-enriching music with artistic and spiritual value.
“Basically, we’re a band and our product is music,” says bass player and original member Greg Cook. “But we’re also a business that has put out a widget – and it’s a coaster unless we can get people to buy it and put it in the CD player.”
Ricochet Reloaded is a title that also strikes a perfect balance – giving fans new music from the band, and also treating them to technologically advanced – but faithful – re-recordings of the songs that catapulted the group into the record books. Songs such as “What Do I Know”, their Top 3 hit, which became the highest chart debut single the year it was released. What’s most impressive about the new recordings – what Greg Cook refers to as “HD versions of the hits” – is that fans will be hard-pressed to distinguish them from the original versions.
Take, for instance, the group’s No. 1 (for two weeks) smash, “Daddy’s Money”, or their third Top 10 hit, “Love Is Stronger Than Pride”. Nearly note for note and lick for lick, the tunes are infused with the same passion and excitement Ricochet brought to the original versions. And, as anyone who’s seen Ricochet live on stage throughout the world knows, nowhere is their passion and excitement more evident than on another of their signature songs, “The Star Spangled Banner”, a performance which landed the group in the record books as they became the first country artist to place the song on the Billboard Country Singles chart.
Ricochet had its beginnings in 1993, when the band’s original drummer Jeff Bryant invited Oklahoman Heath Wright to join his band Lariat, which also included Jeff’s brother and original Ricochet fiddle and mandolin player Junior Bryant. Lariat officially disbanded and when Greg Cook, also from Oklahoma, joined in 1994, Ricochet was born. One year later, the group secured a deal with Columbia Records (later Sony Music) and in 1996 vaulted to the top with their sophomore single, “Daddy’s Money”. More albums and hit singles followed until the band parted ways with their label. But the live shows all over the globe, including two USO tours, continued. Attesting to their popularity as a concert attraction, in 2004 the group released The Live Album, which included another of their signature tunes as a stage act – the Steve Young-penned classic “Seven Bridges Road”, which has also been covered by the Eagles, Dolly Parton, and Alan Jackson, to name just a few.
Of the band’s current lineup, keyboard player Dwayne Dupuy, from Houma, Louisiana, joined the group eight years ago after Heath and Greg saw him playing with the group Perfect Stranger. Dwayne has a Bachelor’s Degree in Music from Northwestern State University. Troy Nelson, who grew up in the small town of Albert Lea, Minnesota, has been in the group for five years and draws on his many musical influences as the group’s drummer. He also contributes high tenor vocals to the group. Guitar player Kenny Lewis from Little Rock, Arkansas, is the “newbie”, playing with the band for about a year. He brings his unique guitar sound and solid touring background to the signature Ricochet sound and show.
Other than adding three new members in the past eight years, and updating their sound to stay relevant in the digital age, the band hasn’t really changed much. They still log countless hours of bus travel in between their 100-plus shows a year.
“We can’t wait to get out there every night and play music,” says the band’s other original member, lead singer Heath Wright. “It sounds like a cliché but it’s true. Our satellite dish doesn’t work on the bus, so sometimes we have to talk to each other, and when we do, we play these games like, “What would you do if you won the lottery? And everybody said that they would do this. It might be on a nicer bus, with a satellite dish working, but we’d still be playing shows every weekend to audiences, trying to figure out ways to make our show better, to give the fans an even better experience.
” With the new songs on Ricochet Reloaded – Hits Plus, the group has added what are sure to become Ricochet standards to their eclectic repertoire. The feel-good vibe of the album’s lead track, “Keep You Lovin’ Me”, spotlights the band’s tight harmonies and their knack for crafting tunes that are fun to sing along with. They can then turn things right around and deliver heart-tuggers like “I Had to Be Me” (the bands first single release from Reloaded) or “Beauty of Who You Are” or introduce us to characters we can all relate to in songs such as “Gonna Be Something”, “Feel Like Fallin'” and the sweetly romantic “I Knew”.
As the title implies, Ricochet is Reloaded, and they’ve clearly got a few more hits – or at least some more soul-enriching widgets – in their sights.
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