Ranzel X Kendrick Presents New Album ‘Hill Country Hip – Best of RXK’

What could Ranzel X Kendrick mean by Hill Country Hip? Is hipness in the hill country a relative term? Does it take some time for hip things to make it up to the hill country, or is Kendrick a hip guy that just happens to call the hills his home? Whatever the definition, this album is filled with multiple variations on Americana musical sounds. This ‘best of’ album showcases his best material to date, too.

Along with female vocal counterpoint, “What a Pretty Day” celebrates natural beauty. The song is simple, intentionally so. Nice days are ones we far too often take for granted. We’re usually quick to complain about the cold and rainy entries on the calendar, and then when the sun comes out to shine, we just let it happen without commentary. Next up, “Cactus Flower” praises female physical beauty. Kendrick sings it over a plucked banjo while accompanied by harmonica. Kendrick sings this one carefully and tactfully because one also gets the impression its lyric is about an especially young girl – perhaps a pre-adult girl. “Trouble and Pain” is more traditionally country sounding, due to its upfront steel guitar instrumentation. Whereas “Trouble and Pain” speaks to difficult life issues, “Peace of Mind” celebrates better feelings. It’s sung over piano and organ and is closer to a soul song.

“Eternal Flame” is an acoustic rock song, which sounds like it was recorded live. This one once again matches male and female vocals together. It tells the story about a man that quite literally loves a woman forever – or at least for as long as he’s alive. While little on this album is particularly rock & roll, the slide guitar that accompanies “Wayfarer” does give it a bit of a Southern rock vibe. Then on “Little Whisper,” Kendrick strips the arrangement down significantly, with just his acoustic guitar and vocal filling out the mix. It tells the story of a man, much like the one in “Eternal Flame,” calling for his lover to come back.

The album closes with “Any Ole Song,” which is a quiet, gentle song about the necessity of singing and the need for songs in certain situations. The only thing that one does not “do,” one imagines, is do no song at all. On one that features Alias Wayne, Kendrick sings about getting stuck in the Lone Star on a song titled “Broke Down in Texas.” This is another one colored by harmonica. It has some of the nicest acoustic guitar work from the album on it.


There’s plenty going on with this album. Heck, Kendrick even whistles during the intro to “Baptized in Butterflies,” a song that also applies some really nice fiddling. It has an easygoing feel to it, as with a lot of this project’s thirteen tracks. Americana music is a huge umbrella, incorporating many, many different styles. Ranzel X Kendrick does a good job slipping in as many of these as he can. He never sounds especially stressed while singing and playing these songs. Instead, creating music he can perform just sounds natural coming from Ranzel X Kendrick. Yep, he’s likely the postcard picture representative of hill country hip.

-Dan MacIntosh