Santa Cruz by Rivers Garcia is a record of poems about adventures across the south and southwest of America, and the tales come out to be many good songs out of them. The songs were recorded in his studio outside Toronto and not much else is known about him, as this is his first record and there’s nothing else to go by except for his bio which can be found on the internet, but if you listen to this amazing record you almost get to know him well enough to picture his future and his past because this is his only record to date.
“Drive” opens the story with a couple of mixed guitar pieces that could be from the likes of well known influences put together and it makes for a great backdrop to the lyrics about what he’s going to do on his road trip, if that’s even close to where his mind is. At the end of the day that is how it all appears by the time the songs were put in order. The harp playing is extremely exceptional and helps authenticate Garcia’s sound, which is very clean, but not without the right amount of grit.
In highlighting some of the music. “Mustang Blues” is another good track with some sparkling acoustic lines for which Garcia is good for, and he even throws in some David Bowie “Space Oddity” just for one clue about the familiarities you will hear in some of the songs on Santa Cruz. This is done cleverly and tastefully with all due respect, and Garcia makes no secret about it in crediting his influences, Bowie being one of them. I would also rate this song with the best on the album, which I find the deeper cuts to be the ones that stick.
“Bella Surfista,” the well placed “Stick Shift,” “Blues and Sympathy” and “Palm Trees, West L.A.” all have their moments as well, because they keep the trip interesting and some of it is very relaxing. But this is where “Clean” comes in on another thrilling note for one of the best cuts of the whole pie which Garcia serves up so well. This is a piano heavy track with some T. Rex style to it, and it wins you over without wasting any time. The guitar and vocals on display are up there with Garcia’s best work to be heard on Santa Cruz.
Speaking of that, the title track follows with another soothing and very mellow cut with some more great guitar work and the drums particularly standing out too. “Got It All Wrong” is an epic point for sure, and don’t miss “Jet Plane” as that’s never a good idea. You’ll be glad you caught it because it’s a swinging track. That is also the case with the also epic “Ideology” with its layered vocals, soft piano, and greasy guitars I find it to also be one of the better cuts. But it is also possible that Garica saved the best for last with the seven minute-closer “California.” All in all, Santa Cruz is an Americana masterpiece.