A lot has changed since Rusted Root first began playing around Pittsburgh back in early late ‘80s and early ‘90s. The band experienced great success selling over 3 million albums, scored a huge hit with “Send Me On My Way, and maintained a relentless touring schedule. On the personal front Root members grew up, got married, had children and went on to pursue personal goals.
After a 7 year hiatus the band is back although only 3 original members remain. Frontman and founder Michael Glabicki is joined by singer Liz Berlin and bassist Patrick Norman and several new players on Stereo Rodeo.Glabicki’s voice has always been one of the most identifiable sounds of the band as well as Berlin’s accompanying vocals but Rusted Roots signature sound is it’s driving rhythms and world beats. While Jim DiSpirito and Jim Donovan, who were the originators of this beat, have moved onto solo projects, Preach Freedom and Jason Miller create an infectiously tribal sound while Norman’s bass lays out the groundwork. Root also benefits from the input of Colter Harper and Dirk Miller.
Stereo Rodeo kicks off with a bang with the dance-party spirit of “Dance In the Middle” a track that’s bound to get your adrenaline pumping. There’s something about this song that seems to connect to those early years when Glabicki and company were playing for their friend at The Upstage or Grafitti – vintage in a way but with a more experienced edge. Chiming guitars collide with drums and bass while Michael and Liz go crazy on vocals. The second track begins with drums and bass, but the big surprise hits as Glabicki begins to sing the lyrics – it’s Elvis Presley's “Suspicious Minds.” If your going to take on the King of Rock and Roll then at least make it your own and, boy, does the Root ever do that. I love the audacity of this take on a classic song.
Things calm down a bit for “Weary Bones” – at least at first - and it is here that you begin to notice that Glabicki has begun to realize his potential for nuanced phrasing. You’ll notice it again on “Give You the Grace” a prayerful ballad that allows Glabicki a chance to showcase his lyrics.
“Bad Son” and “Driving One” features the African inspired guitar work that epitomized the work of The Talking Heads on Remain In Light and features those great jam-out moments that Root fans love. Norman proves adept at adding sharp horn arrangements on the closing track “Crucible Glow.”
The title Stereo Rodeo suggests an invigorating ride that could go wild and certainly Rusted Root has tapped into the original vigor that inspired a wild and faithful following in Pittsburgh and beyond. I’m sure this summer will be a whirlwind for the band and their audiences.