The first time I heard Black Licorice, lead-off track for River Rouge's Not All There Anymore album, I got high. Swear to God. I broke out in a sweat and wanted to dance. There was just enough Sir Douglas and Thee Midniters in the song to get the heart to pumping and, boy, did it pump! Enough to play it over and over for a good thirty miles trying to figure out those damn lyrics. Sure, it was a bit muddy and there was the tire noise, but damn it, songs like this are SUPPOSED to be slightly muddy. They aren't MEANT to sound like they were freshly recorded at Abbey Road or Ardent studios. They were meant to get the toes a-tapping and all I can say is that it does that job just fine.
Which leads me to good and bad news. Black Licorice is an anomaly on the album. That's the bad news. The good news is that they pack the album with songs equal to it though maybe not as toe-tapping. All original, all good. There's a mid-tempo rocker, Murder of the Crows, which gives the band a chance to harmonize (they do it well) and with enough of a beat to get the head bobbing. Good at Goodbye rocks out like Wilderness Road on their classic Dr. Morpho's Revenge from their first overlooked album (they beat The Eagles out of the country rock-opera gate with that album, pre-dating Desperado). Not All There Anymore is a seemingly drug-induced, eyes-half-closed downer of a song, complete with eerie background harmonies worthy of Halloween (the holiday, not the band) and a perfect pick for title song, it's so cool. The Americana-ish instrumental background makes it just that much better. Speaking of Americana, Railroad Ties fills that bill what with harmonica jams over the acoustic guitar/banjo base. I'm surprised that Ducks On the Pond impresses me as much as it does, but it does. There is a Phil White (Space Opera) sense about it and I haven't quite figured out the reason behind the melody and instrumentation, but I am beginning to think it close to my favorite track.
Not quite, though. I mean, I love dancing in my head every time Black Licorice blasts through the speakers and Not All There Anymore leaves me stunned, but right now Yes is plucking at my soul. The Band could have done this on their Music From Big Pink album and it would have fit, which makes me wonder about myself. I was never a huge Band fan, but maybe I am. I hear their influences everywhere, real or imagined, and I'm thinking of reacquainting myself. In the meantime, I have tracks like Yes to slake my thirst (that's right, I said slake) and it will do nicely. Very nicely, to be truthful.
I am not sure why I like these guys so much but I do. There is something in the beat and the presentation—an early seventies sound, maybe—which has me listening to this as much as anything I've received over the past couple of months. Of course, I am saying that about a string of albums. Man, 2011 is turning out to be a banner year for music. River Rouge is helping. A lot.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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