Ron Roper’s Groove is in a Rut

Keyboardist/vocalist Ron Roper has played with The Stratocruisers, Stoney Brooks, The Creations, Atlanta Boogie, the Allman Brothers tribute act Revival and, for a couple years in the mid-1990s, an early lineup of the Derek Trucks Band. But for his new solo album, Groovin’ in the Key of R, he took the concept of “solo” to its logical conclusion: playing all of the instruments (piano, organ, guitar and melodica), singing all the vocals, writing all the compositions and recording/producing them at his home studio.

With an approach that strives to capture some semblance of an early 1970s funk/R&B/easy-listening hybrid, Roper is unquestionably dexterous on the keys but the compositions and performances have the originality and excitement of a motel lounge band playing the Thursday dinner buffet at the Admiral Benbow Inn down on the bypass. Vocally, Roper’s clearly going for a ’70s Stevie Wonder vibe on most tracks (he’s been known to do entire sets of Stevie’s material), but sometimes it sounds more like he’s doing voiceover work for Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. The programmed drum parts have absolutely no funk whatsoever. I don’t know if it was made during the height of pandemic hysteria when so many folks were terrified to leave their houses or come face to face with other humans, but Roper’s CD could’ve really benefitted from some ensemble interaction, collaboration and inspiration. That sort of thing has no substitution when it comes to rhythm & blues. Roper’s talents notwithstanding, Groovin’ in the Key of R has little discernible warmth or soul to it. It’s lifeless.