The Sweden-based rock artist and singer-songwriter Johan Ruborg releases his fourth album and most anticipated record to date, 'Gravel and Gold.'
Blending literate classic rock with a modern sensibility, Johan Ruborg truly sets the bar higher for evolving rock artists. His guitar-driven melodies and character-influenced lyricism give him the ability to tell compelling and real-life stories. Now releasing his fourth studio album, 'Gravel and Gold,' Johan Ruborg saw himself inspired by acts like Bruce Springsteen, Warren Zevon, and Tom Waits when creating this project, genuinely fueling it with incredible soul and magnetism.
Jumping into the 8-track record, we're met with the introductory and title track, "Gravel and Gold." The song opens the album like a breath of fresh air through gentle acoustic guitar strumming and soothing shakers. As Johan Ruborg makes his low and dark vocal appearance, he instantly swoons us with each soulful and honest tone he exudes. While singing of life's ups and downs, its "gravel and gold," the instrumentals slowly begin to expand with help from a twangy electric guitar and soft drum breaks. As Johan Ruborg makes his way to outro with stories surrounding the peaks and valleys of various characters that many of us can relate to, he gets us ready to delve deeper into the rest of the conceptual and hearty project.
Locking and loading us into the second track, "Miss Misery," the song opens with the utmost energy and vibrance through a cocking gun and a deftly blended instrumental breakdown. Listening to Johan Ruborg's deep and charismatic vocal appearance, he delves into lyrics that touch on moments where we tend to romanticize our sadness and choose to stay in the depths of despair. Whether it's being mesmerized by rain's rhythm or the beauty of pain, Johan Ruborg touches on incredibly poetic and honest lyricism that sends us into a deep train of thought. With the beaming addition of a bright harmonica, the entire song leaves us feeling a bounty of emotion and excitement.
Moving into "Electric Lovin' Soul Redemption," the song begins with a downtempo drum arrangement, plucky electric guitars, and an overall dark atmosphere. What we love about this album is Johan Ruborg's low and groaning vocal stylings, as he showcases them perfectly throughout this record while paying tribute to staple songwriters like Springsteen. We can feel a more industrial/lo-fi approach to this track, as Johan Ruborg mentions lyrics that elaborate on a soul's redemption while being completely and utterly complemented by the overall ominous and emotional instrumental atmosphere. We truly adore the grit and feel of the song's second half, as he touches on heavy guitar-driven rock perfectly.
As we sway into the soulful and emotional ballad, "Brothers Till We Die," we're met with the gentle caress of a soothing piano melody accompanied by Johan Ruborg's Springsteen-esque vocals. While touching on precious memories and pondering time's fast-paced ways, he later expands on a heartfelt story of starting new friendships as a young child and feeling compelled to reflect on the good old days. As the bright acoustic guitar makes its way in alongside a sparkling electric guitar and soulful drum breaks, Johan Ruborg continues singing his heart out while paying tribute to the times that shaped his every way.
Passing the album's midway point with track number five, "Dear John," Johan Ruborg drenches us in a refreshing and soulful array of instrumentals from twangy electric guitars, thumping mid-tempo drum patterns, a haunting organ, and soft acoustic guitar melodies. We always enjoy the vocal appearance of Johan Ruborg, as he's able to keep us entirely mesmerized by his low and raspy vocals, especially when they sing a message of passion and introspection. As he ponders over a letter written to him back in the day, Johan Ruborg later sinks into a deep state of reflection after having his heart pulled out by the one he loved.
Grooving us into the sixth track, "Stick to Your Guns," the song opens with short rhythm guitar strokes accompanied by a radiant electric guitar and short drum breaks. Johan Ruborg uses this track to pay homage to those who've felt their values and morals tear apart at the seams, as they were encouraged to stick to what they know. As the bright electric guitar begins whaling its way through the song and into our hearts, Johan Ruborg continues touching on unrealistic social standards and keeping your head up amid the chaos. With an incredibly soulful and passionate hook, Johan Ruborg leads us towards the beaming outro alongside his punchy instrumentals that send chills up the spine.
Spicing it up with the next track, "Ain't Got Nothin' on Me," Johan Ruborg switches up the vibe with a heavy introduction. Through a gritty and distorted rhythm guitar and foot-stomping drum breaks, Johan Ruborg makes his way in with heavily filtered vocals that take us into the heat of our southern climate. Enlivening our spirits with this stimulating track, Johan Ruborg reminds listeners to stand their ground and look past the negativity with help from our fight or flight instincts. We love the passion, grit, and energy of this track, as Johan Ruborg keeps us locked into the song's dominant atmosphere throughout the entire experience.
Reaching the album's outro track, "Jihad Nadine," Johan Ruborg takes this time around to tell a needed and passionate story. As the intro drenches us in the mysterious and emotional tones of a warm acoustic guitar, Johan Ruborg later begins to elaborate on the story of a young suburban and segregated girl with a radical heart and a radical dream. With help from a hazy and reverbed electric guitar alongside a melodic and spacey synth, Johan Ruborg keeps us locked into this character-driven story with each and every aspect. Leading us towards the introspective and hearty outro, we're genuinely impressed with the density and poetic abilities that Johan Ruborg's lyricism has to offer.
Travel through life's 'Gravel and Gold' with help from Johan Ruborg's fourth studio album, now available on all digital streaming platforms.
Welcome to BuzzMusic, Johan Ruborg. We're incredibly impressed with the lyrical and instrumental density of your latest album, 'Gravel and Gold.' Did anything or anyone inspire you to create this passionate and soulful project?
Thank you very much! I think musically, during the pandemic I had time to really arrange the songs in a more structured way and think more about the vibe and sound I envisioned. I wanted a sound landscape that gave life to the stories and characters in my songs.
Did you want to fuel your album 'Gravel and Gold' with any particular themes or concepts? How do the tracks on this album connect with each other?
There's always a theme in my music and songwriting, kind of a brooding aura that runs like a red line through the imagery of my music. Yet it's un-sentimental, truthful and with a bit of awkward humor I guess.
Out of all eight tracks on your album, 'Gravel and Gold,' do you have one that's your favorite or the most personal to you? Why?
Every song is personal in one way or another but I guess 'Miss Misery' stands out on this album since it's the most intimate for me. It's about my lifelong battle with anxiety and depression. It's still a stigmatized subject and I hope the song can at least help a few people out there to start talking about it and to feel less alone in their struggles.
How does 'Gravel and Gold' contrast your most recent album, 'Villain of the Piece?' What shifts or adjustments did you make to your sound/lyricism?
The biggest difference I think is the sound. I intentionally worked towards more of a modern sound. Lyrically it's just a continuation of me doing my thing, trying to get people to relate.
What's next for you?
Hopefully, we'll be outperforming again once they lift the restrictions. These songs are made to be played live and loud!