The artist Zama Rripa is best described as a liberty-peace-love-minded-street-busking-singer-songwriter switching time between Miami, Florida, USA and Los Angeles, California, USA. Zama plays guitar, harmonica, drums, percussion and keys. The songs on the album “American Soul” – released on October 26, 2018 — were recorded with musicians from around the world. A tour beginning in the Southeast US is slated for early 2019. Sometimes it feels like the fate of the world is hanging in a delicate balance, with far too few voices narrating sensible truths. Zama Rripa, however, is an artist built for these difficult times. A singer-songwriter styled poet with a roots rock heart, Zama is building an earnest career, one defined by a flagrant disregard for the corridors of power and a willingness to lash out and take on the common man’s cause.
Attitude coupled with intellect and heart, is a potent mix, it seems. Zama is staggeringly forthright in confronting society’s shortfalls and limitations, and his candor is refreshing from track one, through to thirteen. “Live and Let Live”, the opening cut, is what Zama says has pretty much always been his philosophy. The sound of an untreated electric guitar, a sharp eye for details and the spirit of a rocker without the posing, makes a great calling card for this album.
Listening to Zama Rripa’s work in a collection like this I am struck by how consistent, strong and passionate his songwriting is. I particularly fell for the acoustic driven Americana flavor of “Live Your Thing”. “Find out what it means to be free. You’re a human being, go live your thing,” sings Zama.
“Left Behind” is the artist’s personal take on Mellencamp’s “Pink Houses”. “Mellencamp’s ‘Jack and Diane’ has been updated many times over,” explains Zama. “I was thinking how ‘Pink Houses’ might be updated, and ‘Left Behind’ was the result.”
While Zama Rripa’s internalization of his bone-bred political angst is interesting in itself, the singer proves he can be every bit as raw and unnerved when looking at society’s most forgotten issues. “C503” looks at those all but abandoned in nursing and assisted-living homes. It’s as tender as it is scathingly focused.
“Stone of Freedom”, grew out of the question: “How would Jesus be treated in America today?” It only takes the opening lines to see where Zama is going with this: “Now Preacher man tell me why you don’t articulate, that Jesus Christ was murdered by a police state.”
“American Soul” apparently began as a direct response to statements by Bono and U2, and their song of the same name. It covers a whole lot of socio-political ground, but ultimately is about freedom. There’s no denying that Zama is somewhat of a political songwriter, and a brilliant one at that, but there is so much more to this than politics set to music.
Throughout the album, Zama Rripa protests, pleads, laments and advises, but more than anything else, it’s his humanity, warmth and empathy that shines through. “Blowback” narrates another complex socio-political scenario where Zama advocates that “the road to more peace and prosperity must run through economic freedom and individual liberty.” “Forever Sung” is a conscious attempt to distil music back to its very core. This ability to cut through to the core is something that places Zama above the vast majority of his peers.
But on first listening, there is hardly any time to ponder for too long, as the songs come thick and fast, from “There’s Better Things Ahead Than Any You Leave Behind” to “Tenderly” and “Missing Milestones” to “Stuck Inside the Middle Blues (Where Rain Always Comes Before Rust)”, this is where the political meets the personal, and Zama forges a type of soulful Americana music, and warm heartfelt observation.
After the recording closes down with “All Along”, it will become clear to you that the music of “American Soul” doesn’t live in stylized backing tracks or impressive lyrics scribbled down on sheets of paper but in the heart and soul of the performer. You need to hear these songs: they may make your life better, or at the very worst, broaden your perspective…