Yucca Thunder Records artist, Chris Armes’ debut EP, Ocotillo Rose releases June 24, 2021. In addition to Ames, Ocotillo Rose features Ted Russell Kamp (Shooter Jennings) on bass, Kevin Post on lead guitars and pedal steel, Erik Olson on lead guitars, M Callahan & Justine Valdez on vocal harmonies, Christian Dorn and Hubert Payne (Keb Mo) on drums. All of the songs on the EP were either written or co-written by Armes.
Ocotillo Rose opens with the haunting instrumental track “The San Diego Kid,” fifty-four seconds of beauty, dominated by haunting guitar before segueing into the title track, “Ocotillo Rose.” “Ocotillo Rose,” a song paying homage to the desert plant (and desert life) introduces us to both Ames’ strong vocal stylings and songwriting, “I may never hit the big time, the cover of the Rolling Stone. As long as you are in the garden, I’ll be living where the wild things grow.”
“Blue Eyes California” is all about that love we all seek, that one that will go anywhere with us. “Wheels turning at our feet, she’ll go anywhere with me. Salt and sea, central coast, throw a dart at a map and go.” Listening to “Blue Eyes California” makes me pause and realize how blessed I am to have had mine beside me for over two decades, even though in my case it’s green eyes and Kentucky, this one still hits close to home.
“Everyone is Doing Their Best” brings more of the beautifully composed and played music that is consistent throughout Ocotillo Rose. Lyrically, it sums up what we have all been dealing with the past year plus living in the pandemic, “Everyone is doing their best to make it around the sun,” yeah that is what we have all been doing the last sixteen months or so. We just haven’t described it anywhere near as elegantly as Ames does in “Everyone is Doing Their Best.”
“Lights in the Sky” illustrates again just how powerful a vocalist Armes truly is, in a Brad Delp/Steve Perry sort of way, but with hints of Armes’ punk past. The lyrics across the entire EP are excellent and mate perfectly with Ames’ vocal styling. “And the lights in the sky come down, in the city of Los Angeles… do you want to fly the ship? Do you want to take a ride? Could be the greatest show on Earth if you want it.” “Phoenix rising from the Devil’s clutch,” the imagery here is breathtaking and beautiful.
“I got a couples of scars on my heart and a couple of lines on my face, but I still love” Armes pines in the opening of “I Still Love.” “My wings are worn and dirty, they’re probably mud, anyway, I can’t fly” but he still loves. Regardless of what the world throws at each of us, at the end of the day, like Armes, we can still love. It is great to be reminded of that fact, especially the way Armes reminds us in “I Still Love.”
“Lord Let Me Run” brings out that punk past that exists in Armes’ past. Not one hundred percent a punk song but definitely heavily influenced by punk. This one really puts me in mind of Social Distortion and Mike Ness while still maintaining an Americana feel as well “Lord Let Me Run” is the song on Ocotillo Rose that I can’t stop listening to, I just keep hitting replay on this one.
Chris Armes is the most pure and refreshing voice I have heard in sometime, a vocal styling that is all his own. If well crafted songs and lyrics you can listen to all day are your thing, you are definitely going to want to grab your copy of Ocotillo Rose as soon as it is released June 24, 2021.