Review: Dusty Rhodes and the River Band, First You Live
Dusty Rhodes and the River Band is a sextet out of Anaheim, California – which is just about the last thing they sound like. I’m hard pressed to say what they do sound like, The Band with a sense of humor comes to mind. Like The Band, Dusty Rhodes and the River Band are enamored of traditional forms of rural American music and their line up includes an accordian player (Dustin Apodaca), a banjo player (Edson Choi) and a violin and mandolin player (Andrea Babinski). However focusing on this aspect of the group only captures part of what they’re about. Although largely acoustic, their music also encompasses classic rock, some hints of prog rock, and more than a bit of Al Kooper style blues organ. They’re all over the place.
The comparison with The Band falls further short if you pay attention to the lyrics and the manner in which the music is presented. The Band were very serious about what they were doing to the point of being dour at times. Dusty Rhodes and the River Band sound like they’re looking for a party. The CD begins with a brief country string passage that opens with the first five notes of the melody from “Rock-A-Bye-Baby” which leads you to think you’re in for an hour of sleepy country music. Uhh, . . . no. First You Live is filled with bleary drinking songs, raucus sing alongs, and comedy lyrics.
The music on First You Live is well played and although the lyrics are often clumsy, they are well fit to the music. You have to love a band that sets a chorus like “I can’t wait to be free, no / I can’t wait to leave Tennessee” to a romping hoedown on “Leaving Tenessee”. Although they rarely sacrifice musical chops for sarcasm in the music, the same can’t be said of the vocals. Too often gravel-voiced vocals and cornpone accents are way overdone which can give the group the sound of a bunch of adolescents who are smugly secure in their knowledge that they are so much cooler than everybody else while everyone else wishes they would just hurry up and get on with the process of growing up. It’s more of a minor annoyance than a major problem and there’s too much talent and too many good ideas in the group to keep you from listening to the band.
There aren’t any bands around that sound quite like Dusty Rhodes and the River Band and First You Live is a hoot. If something like The Band in party mode sounds interesting to you, check them out.
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