Chris Dertz - By the River Jordan (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Chris Dertz

By the River Jordan (2010)


Chris Dertz is a young singer-songwriter out of DeKalb, Ill., so immediately you expect him to have some sort of Midwest charm that would make up for any looming faults. Unfortunately, it isn't there, so it doesn't.

Dertz's By the River Jordan EP is inherently timid-sounding and frail to work at all. Quasi-acoustic folk opener "Untitled #3" is Dertz's barely audible murmuring, efficient acoustic guitar base and, out of nowhere, a couple of fuzzy bleats that sound like dying electronics. It's all just really awkward and with zero panache, at least until halfway through when Dertz suddenly picks it up, jangling some riffs and getting a gang of loosely wild, backing vocals from a group of friends (or his voice multi-tracked a bunch of times?).

"Tap, Tap, Tap" is a more full-band, growled number with a little bit more blues and country influence, but it's rather sloppy and lackadasical. Things start to pick up a little with "That Time at the Borderline"; Dertz's voice is adequate, and the tasteful piano accompaniment is a nice touch for once on the EP, and it might be the "best" track here. There's definitely some Elliott Smith influence on the title track, which sounds a little more produced and realized than anything else here, but the lyrics? Ehhh... "I'm just some dumb-ass guy / that never learned to fly. / But he knows how to dance. / He's happy in waiting for some outside saving chance." The sparse musicalities of closer "Through Stadium Doors," with light tambourine and pats on the guitar body are interesting but really milked far past their potential.

There's a few glimmers of hope here, but By the River Jordan is otherwise very passable.

By the River Jordan EP