Tim Reynolds’ guitar improvisations are, in a word, sick. His six-stringed assaults have proved a natural complement to Dave Matthews’ acoustic anthems over their 15-year collaboration. But in light of his remarkable abilities, his formal billing as just a “sidekick” seems ill-suited: dude’s definitely a front man. Enter TR3, Reynolds’ long time band – a power trio. With an electric in hand, Reynolds can definitely bring it. And yet, inexplicably, the guitarist still remains better known as a hired gun than a rock syndicate in his own right. TR3’s latest release, Radiance, probably won’t change that, but regardless, it’s good music.
This is rock and roll. Sonically, the album’s overall sound oscillates somewhere between the Derek Trucks Band and Stevie Ray Vaughan, with some rather distant excursions. The beginning third of the album has an immediate sense of the joyful noise that Trucks can bring to bear. But the fun grooves of “The Wind Just Blew the Door Wide Open” and “By Your Side” come TR3ified, which entails accelerating the tempo and difficulty setting of everything.
As the album continues, it’s clear that one of the most remarkable aspects of Radiance is its diversity. The metal inclinations of “Victory Express” and “Cave Man” sound ready made for a mosh pit, and represent an amalgamation of sounds from the classic metal of Megadeth to the contemporary metalcore of A Life Once Lost. “Test of Time” is blues tailored for a Texas roadhouse, rough and ready in its sentiment. And yet, if you start the album on “Ley Lines,” you’ll be convinced you’re experiencing a jazz odyssey.
Regardless of the style, Reynolds’ steady hand, intricate riffing, and cathartic soul squalls remain a fixture. His exotic guitar runs on “Kabbalah” slide effortlessly over Mick Vaughn’s steady bass and Dan Martier’s equally talented drumming. The rhythm section mirrors Tim’s thematic riff, taking it in separate, engaging directions, but always within sight of his overall intent. They’re particularly talented at composing rhythms that highlight their frontman’s efforts ala Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding of the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
The rough edge of Tim’s voice has an immediate Tom Waits appeal, and fares quite well nestled between the classic rock sounds emanating from all corners of the album. More importantly, his distinct growl, the product of a car accident, helps to further distinguish the album’s through-line in the face of several severe genre twists throughout the 15 songs. Whether it’s the reinvented cover of Chris Whitley’s “Wild Country,” the danceable impulses of their “Do You Wanna,” or the not-so-hidden track, you’re always aware that this is TR3, in large part, because of Reynolds’ voice.
With the very long shadow of Dave Matthews in place, some listeners who cut their teeth on Reynolds’ guitar when he was alongside the South African crooner may not be able to access him now, with his electric in hand, his vocals on mic, and his songs on their own. But Radiance has all the trimmings of greatness, and is worthy of some serious inroads amongst music fans; anything less is a matter of circumstance, not talent.