CD Review: Unknown Rider “Rtb”

Posted: November 24, 2018 in Music
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

It was back in 2014 that the organization known as Operation Encore was founded. Operation Encore is an organization that helps give former soldiers from all branches of the American military a new lease on life through the music that they are already creating on their own. And since the advent of the organization, two compilations have been created that feature music from those former soldiers.

Along with those compilations, several albums that were created by some of the artists are also being promoted by the organization. Artists such as Andrew Wiscombe, Steve Wilson, The Real Doug Lane, Steve Covell have put out albums that are being promoted with the help of Operation Encore. Rachel Harvey Hill, a wife of military personnel, has also released music that is being promoted by the organization. Now, former Coast Guard pilot Brian Boland has joined the “ranks” of former military personnel who are now a part of Operation Encore.

Brian Boland, the former Coast Guard pilot, joined the Operation Encore organization just recently and has just released his first EP entitled Rtb, a short-hand military term meaning “return to base”. On the Rtb EP, Boland has been joined by Ryan Johnson on guitar, Whit Wright on steel and piano, Kevin Mcclain on percussion, and Bill Corbin on Bass. Together,  Boland and these musicians combine their talents to bring Boland’s new release to life. 

For his music, Brian Boland performs under the moniker of Unknown Rider. It is with this moniker that he has just released his first album entitled Rtb, a short-hand military term meaning “return to base”. And to help shape his music, Boland has called upon the following musicians: Ryan Johnson on guitar, Whit Wright on steel and piano, Kevin Mcclain on percussion,and Bill Corbin on Bass. These men were also a part of the band known as American Aquarium. Together, Brian Boland and the four aforementioned men helped to bring the music of Unknown Rider to life.

As you make your way through the Rtb release, you notice a connecting theme between the tracks. That theme is movement. Many of the songs created by Unknown Rider deal with spending time in one specific place or another, and with the fact that Brian Boland spent much of his time in the military on the move,that really should not be that much of a surprise.

The Rtb release from Unknown Rider begins with the track “Hatteras”. This is the first of many songs on the album that deal with the theme of traveling. With this song, the lyrics find Brian Boland spending some time reflecting on a past relationship; a relationship that, apparently, took place on the beaches of North Carolina. The track features a Pop-Rock feel to the music. That Pop-Rock influence seems to take the listener back to the time of the nineties as the track’s musical approach brings to mind bands like Third Eye Blind or Goo Goo Dolls.

Unknown Rider’s new release continues with the track “Reykjavik”. With this track, the travelling theme continues. The lyrical content in the song deals with Brian Boland’s time as a pilot in the military as the song follows Boland on one of his many adventures with the men he served alongside. While the previous track of “Hatteras” contained a Pop-Rock feel to the music, “Reykjavik” has a strong Country vibe to it. That Country flavor comes courtesy of the inclusion of things like a slide guitar.

Just as fast as Unknown Rider’s sound changed with the track “Reykjavik,” the feel of the music changes again on the song “Mexico”. While you might expect a song with a title such as “Mexico” to have a Latin flavor, nothing could be further from the truth with this track. In fact, the music of “Mexico” actually brings to mind a combination of The White Stripes and Tom Petty. The sing-song style of the lyrics on the track actually brings to mind an influence of Tom Waits in both style and delivery. And once again, the lyrical content of “Mexico” deals with Brian Boland’s time on the road in the military.

Since many of the songs on the Rtb album from Unknown Rider deal with Brian Boland’s past, it should come as no surprise thata song or two would deal with the mental side of things. One song that deals with that side of things is “Searchin’”. And while the lyrics on the track do not go very deep into that, Boland does sing about considering what might have been, what has been and what happened to others who were around him as he goes in search of answers to questions he now has. As far as the music to the track is concerned, the five-plus minute song contains and Rock and Roll feel that features the sound of the organ Whit Wright as the main instrument.

The pace of the music slows way down on the song “The Shakes”. Just like with the earlier track son the album the lyrical content of this song deal with things that have taken place in past. On “The Shakes,” a combination of too much coffee and too many memories combine to create the shakes. The slow, steady pace to the music adds a bit of tension to the already tense feeling of the words to the track. It’s almost like you can feel the way Boland feels as he sings.

One of the most unique tracks the Rtb album from Unknown Rider has to be “Kerosene”. The slow pace that was featured on “The Shakes” returns on “Kerosene”. With this track, creates a song that combines several different elements into one track. The music of the track contains a musical combination of Rock and Roll and Soul. The result is something that is rather reminiscent of a track from The Band. Along with the Influence from The Band, the lyrics contain two distinct flavors at once. You can hear in Brian Boland’s voice a touch of Bob Dylan. That Dylan influence also appears in the lyrics.But the lyrics also seem to contain some Tom Waits influence to them.Altogether, the song of “Kerosene” is one of the standout tracks on the entire ten-song release.

After nine tracks that find Brian Boland writing about travelling from one place to another, he brings the album from Unknown Rider to a close with the title track. It is with the final track “RTB” that the term “return to base” seems to make sense as Boland sings of finally being able to go back to where he started off; or, being able to “return to base”. The final track of the release finds Boland and the rest of the musicians who helped him put the album together creating a track with one of the strongest musical directions on the release. The music of the track contains a strong guitar-driven Rock and Roll feel that would fit right with tracks from the seventies, early eighties. For a final track, the song “RTB” actually brings the album to a close with a strong feeling as opposed to most albums that feature a more laidback track for the final song.

Throughout the entire Rtb album from Unknown Rider, the listener is treated to songs that feature many different musical approaches. As a matter of fact, no two tracks feel the same. The album proves that, as a writer, Brian Boland has a lot of talent. The ever-changing feel of the debut release from The Unknown Rider offers some for nearly everyone. 


To hear some of the music from Unknown Rider, check out the live version of the track “Searchin‘” as performed by Brian Boland as part of the Sofar concept. 

You can find the rtb album from Unknown Rider on spotify. Also find him on Instagram under @unknownridermusic. 

In addition to recording under Unknown Rider, Brain Boland is a published author. You can find him under the penname Cole Williams


For more reading about Operation Encore, check out the review for the first album, the second release of Monuments,the review for Rachel Harvey Hill, the review for Andrew Wiscombe, the review of Steve D. Wilson, the review for The Real Doug Lane, and the review for Stephen Covell by clicking on the links that are highlighted.  

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