By Brian M. Howle
On the long and winding road of great musical adventure and education, one must always be poised for that slight jog in the direction of popular music, much like the unpredictable course of a hurricane. But unlike the violent storm, music makes these occasional changes for the betterment of all mankind – whether we all choose, or are perceptive enough, to realize it at the time or not.
Now, it is often the case that everyone in the whole, wide world jumps on the bandwagon of consensus popularity, and bands are ordained to be the new messiahs of Tuneville. But then, sometimes, it takes the careful, intuitive ear of the seasoned listener to bring that laurel to rest on the heads of the newest contenders. And when such a wondrous event happens, the good news is – we are all the better for it.
And that can only mean that the universal sound and appeal of Rusted Root is coming to the House Of Blues in N. Myrtle Beach, SC on Thursday, June 4, 2009.
Rusted Root was formed in 1988 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, by singer/guitarist Michael Glabicki. Their style of music has been described as a fusion of Grateful dead-style, bluegrass rock featuring a strong percussion section that draws from African, Latin American, Native American, and Indian influences. There is the initial impulse to tag them as just another jam band, but that’s not a true description of their body of work.
Rusted Root’s worldly style quickly charmed fans of roots music and world rock. They have sold more than 3 million albums worldwide. After debuting in 1992 with the self released Cruel Sun, Rusted Root signed with Mercury Records and released the 1994 breakthrough When I Woke – a hit on college radio and a platinum record – which featured the hit songs “Send Me On My Way,” “Ecstasy” and “Martyr.” Not long after, the band scored on tours with Toad the Wet Sprocket, Santana, The Grateful Dead, Dave Matthews Band, The Allman Brothers Band, HORDE Festival and, perhaps most notably, the highly coveted support role on the landmark Jimmy Page/Robert Plant reunion tour.
The hard-touring Rusted Root returned in 1996 with Remember, which was followed by 1998’s Rusted Root. Following some time off the band re-emerged in 2002 with Welcome To My Party, which was criticized by some fans (who are affectionately known as Rootheads). Diehards always want things to stay the same, and they felt the band’s departure from tribal grooves to a poppier feel was an attempt to sell out. But the true believers stuck with them, knowing change is all part of the process, and that better things were to come.
After leaving Mercury/Island Def Jam Records the band’s sixth album, Rusted Root Live, was released in 2004. This double live album was the second release on the band’s Touchy Pegg label, following the re-release of the newly remastered Cruel Sun in 2003. Along the way, Rusted Root has also issued three EPs (Evil Ways, Live, and Airplane), a home video (Rusted Root Live) and miscellaneous film and TV soundtrack tracks (Twister, Mathilda, Home For the Holidays, Party of Five, Charmed, Homicide, Ice Age). And interestingly, NASA engineers chose “Send Me On My Way” as “wake-up” music for the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, for Sol 21.
Prior to the current tour, the group had devoted more time apart to pursue solo projects. Michael Glabicki released a solo album (Uprooted) as have Liz Berlin (AudioBioGraphical), Patrick Norman (Digital World), and former member Jenn Wertz with her band Isabella (also of Lovechild) and current release Shotgun Sessions. Former percussionist Jim DiSpirito released Big Silence in 2003.
On his own, former drummer Jim Donovan has released five highly acclaimed solo CDs as well as four instructional drumming CDs. His newest releases include Drum the Ecstatic International, The Yoga of Drum and Chant, and a hand-drumming instructional series called Rhythmic Foundation Volumes 1 and 2. Donovan is also a featured monthly columnist in Drum! Magazine.
But for now, the band – in its current incarnation – is moving onward and upward. Rusted Root released Stereo Rodeo, their first studio album in 7 years, on May 5, 2009. The album is now available online.
Stereo Rodeo blends the diverse influences of each member to create an album that explores a variety of musical styles crossing and merging genres as usual. Original members Michael Glabicki (lead vocals, guitar), Liz Berlin (vocals, percussion), and Patrick Norman (vocals, bass, percussion) are joined on this album by Jason Miller (drums, percussion), Colter Harper (guitar), Preach Freedom (percussion) and Dirk Miller (guitar). “Labeling is dangerous and limiting,” said Glabicki. “We are a band made up of individual musicians who come together collectively to create music, call it what you want but we are simply creating music that has a message.” Columnist Rick Coats agrees, stating “That message has been resonating with fans for nearly 20 years.”
“We named our record Stereo Rodeo after a song that I started writing back when we were recording our last studio record. It’s really just a great name,” says Glabicki. “We were all just so into the music,” says Liz Berlin about the recording process, “the synergy and excitement on this album is so fresh and energizing.” “It is one of the most powerful albums we have ever recorded,” agrees bassist/vocalist Patrick Norman.
“[Stereo Rodeo] is filled with all the different styles you’ve come to expect from Rusted Root, definitely having all the elements you want. From the energetic dance euphoria that “Dance in the Middle” evokes to the powerful epic sound of “Weary Bones”,” writes Evan Levy (CBS Radio), of the long awaited eleven-song collection. “We are getting a lot of positive feedback from fans,” says Glabicki, “We are definitely heading in a lot of different directions with this new CD.”
Patrick Norman says about the invigorating energetic track that leads off the album, ““Dance in the Middle” is one of those tracks that once we first started working on, we knew we had something.” The title track, “Stereo Rodeo” brings a cinematic, wide-open and intimate style to the album that is captivating. The one cover on the album, “Suspicious Minds,” made famous by Elvis Presley in 1969, is reworked with new and vitalizing Latin rhythms and has become a powerful favorite at the band’s incendiary live shows. Glabicki states that the political track on the album, “Bad Son,” “is about George Bush’s accomplishments, (as his fellow band members laugh) talking about his childhood insecurities that you can see were prevalent in how he ran the country.” Filling out the album, the last track “Crucible Glow” was an obvious conclusion, as it’s about change and the uncertainty of the future, adding horns and a heavy groove to the polyrhythmic flow of the album.
Songs like “Driving One & Driving Two” “came about musically by hanging out playing on stage, just improvising, and a groove just fell together,” relays Patrick Norman. Other tracks on the album such as “Weary Bones,” “Animals Love Touch” and “Garbage Man” are songs Glabicki has been playing solo over the past few years that have been restructured by the band. “What I like about our band is that I might write a song and have a certain idea for it but then we start playing and the group comes together, they often come up with different ways to express the emotions of the song,” says Glabicki.
News Pop music critic Jeff Miers writes “Rusted Root, which all but tore down the Tralf (Music Hall) [when they played there], knows how to take the singer/songwriter guy’s songs and pump them full of fire and life… These were strong lines with supporting chord progressions penned by Glabicki, and given abundant support by the [band]…in essence, this was a dance party…the new songs, “Stereo Rodeo” and “Weary Bones”, were standouts… “Crucible Glow” (was) among the most visceral…Glabicki appears these days as an elder statesman of ‘world music’-based rock.”
For this tour, Rusted Root will be playing their new music as well as some of the faithful fans favorites – so everyone will be happy with what they hear.
So for that ‘world music’ sound with the prominent percussive backbone, scurry on down to hear the earthy, organic yet cosmic sound of Rusted Root at House Of Blues in N. Myrtle Beach, SC on Thursday, June 4, 2009. Doors open 7:00pm. For ticket info call 843-272-3000 or Ticketmaster 843-679-9333; or visit http://www.houseofblues.com or http://www.ticketmaster.com.
This also appeared in the May 21 – June 4, 2009 issues (Page 25) of Coast and Alternatives magazines in Myrtle Beach, S.C., as well as online at http://www.myrtlebeachalternatives.com (Nightlife & Entertainment)