The rockabilly resurgence, alt-country movement has been exploding in the American music atmosphere over the past decade… to the point that American rock n’ roll feels like it is has truly revolted against the British Invasion and reestablished itself as the source, rather than recipient, of influence that inspired that cultural surge (for example, Muddy Waters’s blues being the root of Led Zepplin’s rock). This has been somewhat obvious in the main-aside-of-the-mainstream stages played by Wilco, the Jayhawks, Bright Eyes, and the Avett Brothers, and a bit less obvious, but just as beautifully, by bands like Old Crow Medicine Show, the lesser-known Notorious String Dusters, and the meteoric Punch Brothers.
Into this glorious era of country rock comes a solid offering from authentically souled and uniquely qualified Rosco Bandana, who are bringing it all with Southern and vintage style on “Time To Begin,” released by Hard Rock Records in September 2012. Thing is, listening to Rosco Bandana gives the very legitimate impression that they’ve been doing this steadily and are now emerging up and out, rather than landing on the scene.
A strong initial impression is young Dylan-esque vocals strongly rolling along on many tracks, but the mild, gravel-tremolo quality of lead singer and song helmsman, Jason Sanford, neither dominates nor diffuses the clear strengths of the ensemble in terms of vocals or instrumentation. Ballads and rambling rock are the mainstay on Time To Begin, however there is a variety of action that moves between twangy old-country/near-Gospel and hard-hitting beer-bar bouncers (like a bumpy tour bus, swerving back and forth across US-Route 90, Beach Boulevard through Rosco Bandana’s hometown of Gulfport, Mississippi). The album actually has the feel of a road trip and gives a well-mixed swath of strengths from the instruments that reveals a diverse mix of influences. Tracks like #2 “Woe Is Me” range from a toe-tapping akin to the Soggy Bottom Boys on the soundtrack of the Coen Brothers’ “Oh Brother Where Art Thou” to a screaming wail that inspires as much jump as quintessential Lynyrd Skynyrd, while a number of tracks have real moments of full-Jerry Lee Lewis-blooded piano from keyboard provider Emily Sholes tinkling on top.
Both in instrumentally inventive and lyrical terms, listen out for some of everything you’d hit on a road trip from FLA to LA – with, obviously, major pit stops in the heart ‘Bama, Mississippi, and Texas. See if you don’t catch a mellowed ZZ-Top vibe off of track #8, “El Luna,” when lapsteel player Jason Weldon backs-up an Eliminator classic car in your drive way. Also be ready for frequent bursts of Merle Haggard and the Hank Williamses throughout and taken to the maximum on Track #9 “Tangled Up,” which brings a super satisfying, funky beat that is reminiscent of Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen.
Associations aside, Rosco Bandana is belting big sounds out with their seven-person set that don’t belong to anyone but themselves. The band’s bio reads like a 21st Century American music parallel to the 20th Century American astronaut story The Right Stuff – not a band of misfits, but a well-fit band of differences. The blending of the female and male vocal ranges offers a 3D version of the traditional screening of the spectrum of music into which Rosco Bandana might be best categorized, and the Southern identifiers of the music come across as a “best of” of that respective soundscape minus any of the hangups or languor that stereotypically get lumped in with the word “South” in Northern ears. But, don’t take my word for it, if folk rock/alt-country is your genre in the least, get Time To Begin and take the road trip yourself.
“Time To Begin” by Rosco Bandana is out there on Hard Rock Records and the American highway.