Dusty Rhodes and the River Band - Palace and Stage
Record Label: SideOneDummy
Release Date: May 19, 2009
It seems appropriate that SideOneDummy, the record label that may be best known for housing Flogging Molly, would be the one to release Dusty Rhodes and The River Band’s music, including the group’s newest LP Palace and Stage. Much in the way that Flogging Molly mixes Irish influences with punk rock, Dusty Rhodes and The River Band mixes the type of folky music you’d associate with a delta or steamboat and rock. It’s a niche musical focus that sets them apart from other bands. But while the band’s sound is initially refreshing, it eventually wears on the listener for various reasons.
Songs like “Blind Lead The Blind” work because the the instrumental style melds well with lyrics that are a slight upgrade from typical alternative rock stereotypes, focusing a bit more on a grander scale than most. Other times the Dusty Rhodes and The River Band gets a little too cutesy in their sonic tinkering. For example, the violin adds a lot to a number of songs, but it’s mixed in a very heavy and overbearing manner. We get it, you’re not a “typical” rock band. There's no need to beat the listener over the head with it. The synth and bell solo/bridge on “Palace and Stage” is a far worse and more self-indulgent example. It in no way fits with the rest of the song (or album for that matter) and seems more like a situation of trying to show off.
The biggest problem with Palace and Stage is the album’s polish. The production is overdone to a serious fault. It’s polished to the point of being shiny enough to catch a blinding glare off of, which does not work well with the “rootsy” sound the band’s style demands. It takes away an edge or element of danger.
The vocals on the whole are decent, but again seem to lack something in the way of authenticity. The vocals drastically change from track to track between a odd drawn-out drawl that sounds a bit like Areosmith’s Steven Tyler (”Fire in the Sky”) and vocals that sound like most Warped Tour bands, more specifically like Saves the Day’s Chris Conley (”Magic Words”). This stylistic switching prevents Palace and Stage from ever establishing any kind of flow.
The album comes to an end with two tracks that really stand out from the rest of the batch, for better or for worst. The better is “So Low,” which is the only track featuring lead female vocals. The sound is quite sweet and lovely and makes the listener wish Dusty Rhodes and the River Band would explore that sound further. The worse is “Quejao,” which is a sparse song in Spanish which is sung like it’s French. It is no doubt a bizarre way to end the album and really comes off as more pretentious than anything, as if they’re trying to prove how cultured they are.
Palace and Stage is a wildly inconsistent album, but it does have its uniqueness. While it won’t be for everyone, there are sure to be a few souls who will absolutely love it to death. So give a song a spin, but if you’re not immediately hooked it’s probably best to let Dusty and his crew roll down the river without you.
Check out Dusty Rhodes and The River Band on MySpace.