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Welcome To My Party – Rusted Root

Island Records 3145867762

When Rusted Root first appeared on the national scene back in 1994 with
When I Woke, there weren't any other acts that sounded like them. The
worldbeat rhythms, the skittish guitar playing, and Michael Glabicki's
baritone combined for a sound that was not only unique, but presented a
celebratory alternative to alternative rock.

Over the years, the band members proved that they could still stir up a
crowd with their upbeat arrangements but, over the course of three albums,
wavered between primal, percussive songwriting and attempting to
transform the material into something more straightforward.

It worked on the band's debut, while their sophomore effort suffered greatly
to overbearing production. Things seemed back on track on their 1998
self-titled release, but record company restructuring left that disc
without any proper marketing. This brings us to the sextet's latest trip to
the studio, Welcome to My Party.

On this effort, the band members reunite with producer Bill Bottrell. He's responsible for the successful When I Woke, which spawned the hit "Send Me on My Way". This could be viewed as a desperate attempt to reignite the glory of the past. And if so, so what? If working with Bottrell brings matters into any focus, it's still the songwriting and performances that count in the end. So, how does Rusted Root handle those two areas? Initially, it's a toss up. The record starts off with a mighty surprise as the members subtly incorporate their style with a Prince-ly bit of funk on "Union 7". The title track brings matters into a more familiar arena, but Rusted Root refuse to set its interest in funk aside on "Women Got My Money" or the Nikka Costa-flavored "Weave".

I don't fault the group for using funk as just another element in its
musical cabinet of rhythm-based styles but it just seems like too much and,
with the beginning of the album heavy on the genre, too soon.

Luckily, that's one of the advantages of a CD player. You can reprogram the disc. In this case, the more familiar sound of Rusted Root would lead off the album, then shift to the funky numbers and the digital rhythms on "People of My Village".

The strengths of the band have always been the interweaving of
instruments. The tapestry of sound created something that was a formidable
union of rock, worldbeat and more. "Artificial Winter" is just one example
a handful of tracks that wonderfully shows such a mix continues to hold a
wealth of power.

Welcome to My Party is the result of four years of growth as writers and players. Early on, that excitement of new avenues to explore nearly loses Rusted Root's identity. Luckily, the journey didn't end there. We have a lot of acts out there putting out the funk. There's only one Rusted Root.

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