Big Silence – Jim DiSpirito
World-beat percussion has always been Rusted Root's backbone. Though the
group built sweet, folk-pop songs around their eclectic African rhythms,
Rusted Root remained a percussion driven band. Big Silence is the
newest release from former Rusted Root percussionist Jim DiSpirito, a
multi-talented drummer and auxiliary percussionist who, on his own, doubles
as lead vocalist. Like a Rusted Root record, Big Silence mixes
spirited drum workouts and organic pop into 13 short, layered
Santana-influenced songs. But unlike DiSpirito's Rusted Root discography,
Big Silence isn't afraid to bring percussion to the album's
Opening with "Leaving Kashmir," a tribal percussion romp reminiscent of
Rusted Root's "Drum Trip," Big Silence picks up in medias res
and just steps away from where Rusted Root's When I Woke left off.
Though the trademark wail and poignant lyrics of Rusted Root front man
Michael Glabicki are sorely missed, Big Silence is almost the lost
Rusted Root record. Despite DiSpiritos drumming virtuosity, Big
Silence is built around songs, using percussion as each track's most
prominent instrument. It's not a collection of drum jams nor percussion
passages, but a true packaging of three and four minute world-pop nuggets.
With a full band of friends and sideman, DiSpirito packs each track with a
percussion-lead punch, using multi-tracking technology and minimalism to
shrink many types of music into a few minutes. It's also a showcase for the
eclectic styles and sounds Rusted Root incorporated into its musical
vocabulary, while leaving room for some of DiSpirito's out-of-band
As an album of songs, Big Silence is an average effort. DiSpirito's
lyrics are poignant laments that mix tribal chants with Dave Matthews'
intellectual love songs. Throughout the album DiSpirito dances through his
emotions, using his words as one way to express his feelings. Yet, Big
Silence truly succeeds when DiSpirito and his cast of characters weave
together an impressive array of jam-friendly genres into one cohesive album.
"Orlando" is a legitimate stab at country, complete with an accordion,
dobro, and mandolin, while the album's title track mixes spoken word
performance and new age ambience. "Cowboys & Indians" combines
Revolver-like Indian sounds and Pete Freeman's honky-tonk pedal
steel; a healthy marriage of eastern spiritualism and Americana. "Any Angel"
is a gentle guitar ballad that allows DiSpirito a chance to play around with
strings, while the album's closing song "Sky" is a mixture of Caribbean
beats and calypso.
Tying together Big Silence's diverse sounds are seven instrumental
intermissions. Built around the percussionist's drums and rhythmic toys,
these tracks are thin slices of "Drums and Space"; playful experiments that
give the album character. "Moment #1" is an acoustic, yet aggressive,
guitar-bongo duel that flows nicely into "Big Silences"'s more defined
structure. "Ozark Sruti" starts with more dissonant sounds, including a
trashcan turned drum, before meandering into the twang of "Orlando." Later
cuts, such as "Nishu," inject middle-eastern flavors into the album, while
"Changes" even adds turntables and electronic beats.
Before Big Silence Di Spirito was already an accomplished
percussionist. Though his vocal and guitar contributions to Big
Silence are pleasant, his hidden talent lies in the album's production.
Along with Carol Lee Espy, DiSpirito successfully packs multiple percussion
instruments and an astonishing array of voices into less than four-minute
tracks. Despite each track's short span, DiSpiritos layer cake approach
thickens the disc's skin and calls out for second and third listens. While
many of the album's songs would work well during Rusted Root's live show,
they also sound like fully realized studio experiments. Moreover, they flow
into one cohesive journey through world-beat, Americana, and middle-eastern
Though Di Spirito's long tenure with Rusted Root rightly connects the disc
to their earlier work – particularly Cruel Sun and When I Woke – it's an interesting twist on a solo project. Given DiSpiritos long
history as Rusted Root's percussionist, its fitting that Big Silence
sounds like that band's canon seen through the eyes of its least visible,
but equally essential, member. It's full of enjoyable songs that may
flounder on their own, but stand strong as an excellent, eclectic