Dusty Rhodes and The River Band – First You Live
Record Label: Side One Dummy Records
Release Date: October 9, 2007
I should’ve written this on a typewriter. Dusty Rhodes and The River Band have crafted an album rich in roots, friendship and, duh, accordion. First You Live is a glowing tribute to American nostalgia. We all know how our snobby audiophile friend talks about music “feeling” right “back then.” Play him/her/it First You Live and see if they can find anything wrong with this newer version of old-fashioned country and bluegrass (it has indie pop moments, too). There are times (like on violin-crazed and slightly jam band-ish “Ghost Trails”) where I am convinced I have memories from the early 70’s trying to catch a foothold in my mind. Now, I don’t remember what I ate for dinner yesterday, so you can imagine my sense of shock. I always knew five dudes and one dudette from Anaheim would prove the legitimacy of reincarnation.
Andrea Babinski plays the mandolin. This automatically makes her more awesome than any other female you know. “Dear Honey,” possibly one of the most diverse and fun songs of 2007(!), makes great use of her mesmerizing strums and Dustin Apodaca’s accordion skills. The song begins like something out of a Godfather movie before exploding into a disorderly group chorus: “Cause I drank away all my money / I spent the night on the street / I think I just lost my dear honey / Who’s going to take care of me?” Yeah, the guy lost his girl, but in true transient fashion, The River Band sees this as a new adventure. Cry? Let’s celebrate! “Leaving Tennessee” is some fantastic country music. Most of the members sing, but their harmonies are rightfully rough around the edges. The authenticity throughout First You Live might actually be its biggest selling point.
“Strike” slows things down considerably and has a lot of yearning and “yeah yeah yeah-ing” from Apodaca. His gravelly vocals occasionally sound annoying and angsty (damn MTV!), but the strings and soulful, classic rock guitar solo keep things enjoyable. Dusty Rhodes and The River Band don’t write songs, they write stories. “Keys To The Truck” is The River Band’s take on a gospel song. Over handclaps and acoustic guitar, various singers holler, “Oh I can’t wait to be free!” Something tells me they’re already doing whatever they want. The roundtable feel of the record, meaning that everyone does multiple things, is quite refreshing. I wouldn’t be surprised if the band recorded First You Live while holding hands (especially during the harmonizing and parlor piano solo of “Then You Pass”).
A few songs on First You Live make Dusty Rhodes and The River Band feel like a little band with big dreams, but “Street Fighter” shows they aren’t messing around. An extended intro, complete with the catchiest violin part this side of Ocean Avenue, is eventually overtaken by a gristly vocal performance and a retro-fied guitar buildup. An organ then morphs into a (oddly psychadelic) keyboard excursion. The many parts of “Street Fighter” make the track feel like a short play rather than a pop song. The River Band are extremely adept songwriters and can just as easily get me grooving as they can get me reminiscing. Reminiscing about fake moments in my previous life, but still, it’s nice to sit back and think about rodeo trophies I won way back in the day. Dusty Rhodes and The River Band have made one of the most invigorating albums of the year, all by (sort of) imitating yesteryear’s musical heroes. And really, there’s nothing more modern than that.
Recommended If You Like: Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Band, Chun Li/Ryu/Ken, I'm From Barcelona (albeit, in an abstract way), cornpipes, The Beatles, Lenny Kravitz's version of "American Woman," Johnny Cash, FUN
Very well said. Country with a little bit of pop and indie. First You Live is one of my favorite albums of all time! The world is about to get introduced to a band that will (and mark my words) with stand the test of time! I love you Dusty Rhodes!!!
I've been following these guys for the last 2 years now and it's awesome to finally see people taking notice to them. They're one of the best live bands I've ever seen and this record is nothing short of spectaclur. This band is really gonna go places.