Rusted Root is a big time band. The band’s first major label album, When I Woke , attained platinum status in two years. The band has gone on the road with some of the most famous touring groups of our times, including The Grateful Dead, Santana and Dave Matthews Band. Its music has been used in several major motion pictures and television shows.
Despite all of its achievements, the band’s third album, Rusted Root (Mercury), seems to shy away from the sound that brought it every ounce of the success and acclaim it garnered in the past four years.
For all of the fans of the raucous When I Woke, Rusted Root’s latest effort will leave a little to be desired. The new self-titled album reveals a mellow Rusted Root that has learned to concentrate on the more refined details of the song writing and recording process. Somewhere along the way, the band lost its unpolished edge and the energy that was vital to early hits such as “Send Me On My Way,” “Ecstasy,” and “MartyT.”
The album, however, does not mark a complete break from the unique sound that carried Rusted Root into the national spotlight. In keeping with the band’s patented international groove, Rusted Root contains a wide variety of tracks with a complex and potent combination of sounds from all over the world. The album carefully weaves African, Latin, Asian, Native American, rock and soul influences, creating an elaborate musical journey that ranges from the lively and energetic “She Roll Me Up” and “Magenta Radio” to the mellow sounds of Liz Berlin on “Moon.” The album also includes the drum-based instrumental tune “Agbadza” and an energetic cover of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” performed with special guest Hot Tuna.
Recorded at Mr. Small’ s Funhouse in the band’s hometown of Pittsburgh, Rusted Root represents the latest development in the band’s long and adventurous journey. Lead vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Mike Glabicki dropped out of college in 1988 to devote more time to exploring his song-writing skills. He soon was joined by an old high school buddy, Liz Berlin, with whom Glabicki began working on the sounds that would lead to the formation of Rusted Root.
It was in the Pittsburgh world of starving artists and musical unknowns in 1990 that Glabicki and Berlin met drummer and percussionist Jim Donovan and guitarist and bassist Patrick Norman. The four began playing small gigs in Pittsburgh, and the band officially formed. Since that time, multi-instrumentalist John Buynak and percussionist Jim DiSpito have joined the band, bringing different sounds and a new level of musical texture to the group.
Although it does not match the breakthrough intensity of When I Woke, Rusted Root is still a powerful and musically intricate album that reveals a broad range of talent, proving Rusted Root worthy of its share of fame on the music scene.
This article appeared in the January 11, 1999 issue of the Hatchet.