In the appropriate circles, Ando Gro should already have earned enough of a reputation as one of contemporary Americana’s finest independent songwriters. For him to drop an album as subtly stunning as “Golden”, in 2021, shouldn’t really be a surprise. While the previous Gro album release featured some of my go-to, favorite independent singer-songwriter songs, this new album combines what has always been really good about Ando Gro, with a fuller, lusher sound, which grabs you from the opening notes. Throughout “Golden” which features the collaboration with Kyle Zender – who produced, arranged, mixed and played on the recording – Gro’s voice shines like it never has before, the quieter and slower songs really allow him to show it off.
Ando Gro’s songwriting moves easily from the confessional and deeply personal, to being almost like short stories, where it is clear his observational skills of the experiences around him, flavor the mood. “Golden shines a light on the pandemic from disparate viewpoints,” explains Ando. “Each song a Covid vignette exploring small corners of our shared experience. I talked with friends and read about strangers and was inspired by their stories. One found unexpected love, another the open road and a new sense of freedom. For several it was the realization that a relationship wasn’t working out, and it was time to move on,” he concludes.
On “Golden”, Ando Gro sounds like he is at the absolute pinnacle of his career. He is poised to step into the limelight with this recording. It is unquestionably his best record up to this point, and it is immediately apparent from the opening track, “Circling”. Gro’s voice, at once crystalline and resonant, grows ever more confident. His signature lyrical payoffs are honed ever sharper, suiting the rich organic backdrop. This is followed by the acoustic-guitar strums which drive the momentum of the mid-tempo serenade, “Angelina”. The track eventually expands, both in tempo and sonic impact.
The resonating horns kick off the soulful groove of “Let It Slide”, which rides on an infectious rhythm and an ear-warming melody. At the forefront, Ando Gro’s vocals soar to new heights. Banjos, fiddles and clean guitars create an earthy sonic template on “Shot Down” which moves with calculated urgency. One of the strongest songs on the album, has to be the slower “Chasing Time”. It features magnificent vocals from Gro, who knows exactly what to do with each note. Injecting just the right amount of emotion, before moving to the song’s climax.
All throughout this album, it helps matters that Ando Gro is an emotionally expressive singer, aided in pure power and range, for sure, but truly understanding the core essentials of making melodies absolutely endearing. This is evident on the swinging, jazzy backdrop of “Different The Same”, as it is on the thumping beat of “Record Player”, which can be considered another gem. There’s something in Gro’s voice that’s hauntingly honest when he sings, and as personal and specific as these songs are, they manage to feel universal, especially with everything that has been going on.
The the mark of a great songwriter, is someone who can turn their personal stories into something universal and timeless. Which is what Ando Gro achieves all across “Golden”. Fleeting memories of Kenny Rodgers come to mind on the exquisite “Golden Broken”, where Gro’s voice has never sounded so alluringly heartwarming.
Ando Gro’s ability to pull a listener into a song and really feel as though they are a part of the story being laid before them, is constantly present. Emotion, depth and melody all play a concrete roll in the sonic characteristics of the album, which closes with “Ease My Mind”. Ando Gro’s superb skills as a performer and songwriter have never been in doubt, and “Golden” is the reason why that still is the case. The album is set to be officially released on November 19, 2021.