Ria by Mike Grutka
Zack Daggy, The Mothpod
4 out of 5 stars
There are few artists out there anymore that transcend. The type of artists that used to take you away from the mundane of the everyday, and deliver you into spaces of passion, emotion and soul. With the harmonies of their voice and the magic behind their music they wouldn’t just create songs; they created worlds. Mike Grutka has created such a world, and it’s called Ria.
Top Of The World – This first track off of Ria introduces listeners to Mike Grutka’s gruff yet smooth voice. At times, particularly during this track, it sounds very much like Tom Petty fussed with R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe. It’s sweet with just a hint of a twang. The result is unique enough that it acts as a crucial cornerstone for the entire album and could either make or breaks most tracks. Luckily Mike Grutka’s voice vastly makes most of the tracks on this album. With “Top of the World” in particular it turns a simple pop melody in the vein of The Beatles’ “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” into an alternative/folk track that would make Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers proud.
Denver (Spinning Around) – Deserves to be the one that makes Mike Grutka a household name. It’s not a song of breakout moments, but it doesn’t need them. With catchy hooks that sink in deep and a rhythm similar to R.E.M.’s hit “Shiny Happy People,” this song has single written all over it.
Greg Haymes- Nippertown.com
Mike Grutka’s ‘Ria’
Saratoga Springs singer-songwriter Mike Grutka describes his sound as “acoustic-based funky modern roots rock ‘n roll,” which sure as hell covers a lot of bases, but does manage to narrow down the scope of things at least a bit.
Grutka’s got some serious talent – Yes, this is a one-man project – he wrote the tunes, played and sang everything, recorded the album, produced it and snapped the photos for the album cover artwork as well. It’s an admirable ambition to present your unique artistic vision – whether it’s music, film, canvas, whatever – without diluting it with creative compromise by bringing collaborators into the picture. And Grutka comes pretty damn close to pulling it off with this disc.
“Denver (Spinning Around)” is my fave track on the album. It’s a great song. Grutka sings in a keening monotone that immediately recalls Michael Stipe and REM. The song is chockfull of ear-grabbing guitar riffs, swelling keyboards and an appropriately propulsive bassline. It’s got everything
Elsewhere on the album, Grutka’s got the right stuff. There’s a baroque (synth) string arrangement on “Sunshine” that pops right off the disc. I love the overlapping vocal lines that he employs throughout the album. He coaxes out a great variety of sounds on the album, too-from Crowded House-like bounce ‘n’ twinkly of “Actress” to the rubbery bass thump of “Standing Beside Me” to the crystalline keyboard tinkle of “Come With Me.”
Best of all, he’s got the songs. Smart tunes with the requisite Beatles-pop roots, to be sure, but he stretches out beyond the usual pop protocol – especially on the majestic “Goodbye” – without abandoning accessibility.