A note before diving into this review: Central Oregon musician and producer Matt Engle, owner of Musitech Studios in Redmond and known for his work in recent years playing guitar with country group Dry Canyon Stampede, died Aug. 1 after suffering a heart attack July 27, according to a post on Dry Canyon Stampede’s Facebook page. Engle produced and engineered projects by local musicians including CJ Neary, Thomas Hudson, ¡Chiringa! and many more over the years. Lindy Gravelle’s album “Older & Bolder,” co-produced and arranged by Engle and Gravelle at Musitech and released earlier this year, was one of Engle’s last productions to be released.
Longtime Central Oregon singer-songwriter Gravelle offers a defiant, humorous and often heartwarming take on growing old and still kicking butt on her 10th solo studio release. The album, her first to be released since moving back to Central Oregon in 2017 after a brief sojourn in Ellensburg, Washington, showcases all the styles Gravelle is known for — from her Nashville country days, to Northwest roots rock, to jazzy swing, with some surprises along the way.
The album’s first two tracks set the prevailing moods. The energetic title track melds Gravelle’s muscular chord progression and Engle’s plucky guitar fills to a mission statement delivered with fire in the chorus: “If you want to be a rock n roller, life isn’t over just ’cause you’re older; get older and bolder.” Track two, “Perfectly Imperfect,” is perhaps the album’s sweetest moment: a gentle ballad about the imperfections of what nevertheless turns out to be perfect love.
Other highlights include the emotional ballad “Grandchild” and “Red Wine and Blue,” an ode to surviving heartbreak with help from sad songs and adult beverages. The production is detailed and layered with plenty of ear candy, but crisp and never busy, with Gravelle’s powerful vocals front-and-center.
“Older Ladies,” originally by Oakland, California, artist Donnalou Stevens, features Gravelle’s acrobatic chorus vocal backed by an impromptu choir, and provides the album’s centerpiece. It also provides the segue into the album’s silliest moments: three songs in a row sung by “Leon,” AKA Gravelle with an affected rasp to her voice.
There are weak moments, but overall, “Older & Bolder” is a statement of purpose filled with wit and heart — two things desperately needed not just in music, but in the world at large.
Gravelle’s upcoming shows include: noon Friday at the Sunriver Art Fair at The Village at Sunriver (free); 5 p.m. Friday at The View Restaurant at Juniper Golf Course in Redmond (free); and at 7 p.m. Saturday at Brassie’s Bar at Eagle Crest Resort in Redmond (free).
— Brian McElhiney, The Bulletin