Darren Bowden – Rust
Darren Bowden is a rock musician based in New Jersey with a long history of writing and recording songs. One of his first bands, Prodigy (no, not that one), played clubs in and around Dallas, Texas, before most of the members were old enough to drink where they played. Today, his music is a personal expression, something to bring joy to life. Here are 11 songs spanning decades of writing for the world to check out and get to know. The instruments are passionate, and the lyrics compelling. The tunes are immensely relatable and will touch you in a way that will draw you in and make you feel a direct connection.
- Darren Bowden – Guitars, Bass, Drums (Keys, Vocals on Silent Conversation)
- Chris Sligh – Vocals
- Sean Perry – Vocals (You Don’t Know Me)
- Alex Wakim – Piano (Broken)
- dUg Pinnick – Bass (Lifeboats)
Rust is Darren’s second full-length solo album and is due to release in mid-March 2022. Rust contains 11 songs from various points in his life, so there is a wide range of tunes here. This album represents the chaos that is life, both the good and the bad. Some of the songs are deeply personal, speaking about the loss of a loved one. Some of the tracks are acoustic, others electric. This is a work that spans a lifetime of thoughts and feelings. These are songs that will move you, touch you, leave you thinking about the good and the bad. More than anything, they will remind you how lucky you are to be alive.
- Silent Conversation
- In Your Hands
- You Don’t Know Me
- Curtain Call
- In My Time
- The Letting Go
The album opens with “Animals,” a throwback to 80s guitar-driven rock. The riff is quite good, and the rhythm is solid. The intro moves into a really well-placed vocal scream to kick off the song’s main body. During this, we get some excellent layered vocals and harmonies that are very reminiscent of King’s X. The chorus has the phrase “Our way home” repeated over and over, using different inflections and harmonies, giving a lot of feel for that desire to get back to the place that feels comfortable. Life is crazy, and that desire to feel secure is intense.
“Silent Conversation” strikes me as the world trying to interrupt while being lost in thought. Life runs so fast that it is hard to slow it down and just appreciate the things that really matter. Part of the problem with getting lost in thought is that people around you feel like they are being ignored. That’s not the truth, but feelings are what they are, something that is a reaction to what each person is going through at the time. One of the key differences to this song is extra instruments. The added keys and horns on this song show a different side to the songwriting. The tune also has a bit of a reggae vibe to the rhythm that I find a welcome addition to the overall record theme.
For a bit more of a pop/rock vibe, we move on to “Dishes.” The cool things in this song are the little guitar slides and fills and how the rhythm section drops out to let the guitar solo really stand out and make an impression. The riff is a bit grittier, and the vocals could have also used a bit more grit. Again, life is busy, and we tend to get lost in thought or distracted by technology. Sometimes we just need to go for a drive and clear our minds. Stop acting and pretending to be someone else; just get lost in who you are.
An 80s influenced musician cannot have a record without some kind of power ballad. “Pirouette” is the one on this disc. The kick from acoustic to electric guitar is perfectly timed. Obviously written for someone you love, this song is about making sure to remember to appreciate the things in life that make your heart keep wanting to beat. Don’t wait for the anniversary; slow down and just look at your person. Smile and remember all the reasons you chose them. Most people would just say something nice, but musicians write songs about this to put into words those things we ordinary people cannot voice in this way.
Next, we get a groove song. “Lifeboats,” featuring the bass playing of the incredible dUg Pinnick of King’s X, is about clinging to your person. If you find the right one, they always help you when you need it the most. They bring out the sunshine in your life. The guitar tones in this one are really nice. Lighter when the song is looking to inspire and darker when speaking about the blues we inevitably experience. The bass playing molds into this with a precision borne of 40+ years of experience. The rhythm supports the song so well it’s impossible to think they could be separate. They exist in time and space together, inextricably linked.
A little heavier, “In Your Hands” starts with a really good riff. This is an uplifting song reminding you to stand tall and never let them, whoever they are, get you down or treat you as less than. “All these sinners praying for our sins” is a great line to remember when someone far less than perfect is trying to judge you. Once again, we have some excellent vocal layering and harmonizing. These harmonies are scattered throughout the record but sometimes pop up and remind you it’s there. This is one of those songs where you notice it anew.
The surprise song for me is “You Don’t Know Me.” There are only eight lines, and they are repeated twice, separated by some excellent musical work. The song starts gently, with an acoustic guitar and a voice. This gives way to a harmony, then the drums and bass kick in with a bit of a tribal feel to take you through the first half of the eight lines. The second half sees the addition of heavier guitar tones and some serious backing vocals. Cue the pause, followed by the guitar solo. Then the second run-through of the lyrics, heavier in tone this time, before an epic series of runs on the vocals for the last line. That abrupt ending nailed the finish. Primo composition.
Back to a more pop sound, “Curtain Call” is intermittent guitars with some intriguing fills here and there. The backing vocals that go over and around the lead vocals are woven with precision. The song’s theme appears to be “just be yourself,” even though that is sometimes really hard to do. It is difficult not to put on a face to present who we think you want us to be. In the end, though, once we know who we really are, do we look back with regret or pride? This feels like the time when we judge ourselves, which is often harsher than those who love us would.
“In My Time” is that song of betrayal. This is the one about knowing someone lied to you, probably for an extended period of time. The guitars are rough and gritty, the leads harsh and giving off an angry tone. The vocals drop lower in areas, again signaling anger and hurt. We’ve all experienced this, that betrayal we know is going to be impossible to get over. This is another immensely relatable song on a record full of songs that do just this.
The last lyric song is “The Letting Go,” a song about loss and having to say goodbye. The tone is more “Americana” than the rest of the record. There is a lot of longing in this song, both in the music and the lyrics. The little guitar fills scattered throughout the acoustic strumming are a nice touch. They act like small pieces of hope, punctuating the line “It’s Okay.” This is a short song, just under two minutes, but full of emotion. It feels longer. Those little reminders that “It’s Okay” also act like permission to go on and live despite the loss. After all, don’t our loved ones want us to be okay? If they love you, that’s all they want, even after they are gone.
Wrapping the disc is “Broken,” a piano piece that is heavily based on classical music. The differences in the piano tones create a massive amount of tension. The darker lows and the longing for higher-end playing are quite the contrast. There is desolation and despair but glimpses of hope as well. This song feels like a journey through life itself. The hopeful times, the sorrows, the love, and the anguish. No words, just a piano, and your feelings. This is an excellent way to finish up after having just let go of someone you love.
Part of what touches me so much about this record is that I have a personal connection to the artist. I’ve known him for most of my life. And while we grew apart at times as we each pursued our own paths in life, I almost feel like I have reconnected with him through this music. I know that he, like me, has regrets in life. Don’t we all? I know he has hopes, worries about the future, appreciates what he has, and misses the things he’s lost. All of that is crystal clear in the lyrics and the music.
Darren has the ability to express all these things through poetry and music, which is a talent that not many people have, so we must celebrate them when we can. They say for us all those things we don’t have the words to say. You will not be able to listen to this album and not feel these emotions. This record is a collection of songs that will touch your heart and move your spirit. The picture on the album cover shows us a rusted-out car, and this record has touches of the Rust in our lives on it. I hope Darren’s next record is the start of the Restoration process.
- Guitars – 10
- Rhythms – 9
- Vocals – 9
- Songwriting – 9
- Production – 9
- Overall – 9,20