- Whitewater Ramble
- Roots & Groove
“High-Octane Rocky Mountain Dancegrass” reads the liner notes to Whitewater Ramble’s Roots & Groove – and whether you consider that a list of ingredients or a warning label, you can consider yourself duly informed. They ain’t lyin’, folks: these tunes urge you to move.
Whitewater Ramble (mandolinist Patrick Sites; bassist Howard Montgomery; Patrick Latella on guitar; Paul Kemp on drums; and fiddle duties on Roots & Groove split between Zebulon Bowles and Ben Blechman) are no band of fools. They used the same secret weapon for their sophomore studio album as they did on 2010’s All Night Drive : producer Tim Carbone. Although the general public may be more aware of Carbone’s tasty and fearless violin, guitar, and vocal work with Railroad Earth and The Contribution, he has a passion for production and a track record to prove it. Whereas some producers are known for applying their trademark sound to a given band’s tunes in the studio, Carbone has a knack for drawing the good stuff out of the musicians he’s working with. Past efforts from folks such as Great American Taxi, Boris Garcia, The Ragbirds, and Bovine Social Club don’t sound like Carbone; they sound good because of Carbone and his ability to guide without trying to change the band.
On Roots & Groove, Carbone’s actual musical contributions are held to one tune: his dopey-grinned electric guitar skanks help Kemp and Montgomery drive “Standard Deviation”’s Caribbean rhythm, as guest Billy MacKay weaves big ol’ fatty organ between the just-exactly-right horns of Ryan Jeter, Jon Gray, and Austin Zalatel. Blechman’s fiddle comes spiraling out of nowhere during the jam before handing things off to a crazy guitar/keyboard riff from Latella and MacKay … take a big whiff of sunshiny goodness.
There’s all kinds of stuff going on here – and the band prove themselves to be excellent songcrafters as well as groovers and jammers: “Beyer’s Canyon” is Whitewater’s “I Shot The Sheriff” – with a macabre twist – and a mando/dobro-led workout (Sites and guest Andy Hall) that will lay your hair back. Latella’s “Paradise” is as sweet as sweet can be with Tanya Shylock’s vocals sealing the deal. “Oh Jameson” is an ode to that fine, fine Irish whiskey – catch the moment just after the 2-minute mark where Montgomery’s bass takes the wheel to lead the band on a joyous romp: is that tone, or what? (Same for Latella’s guitar line that leads to the touchdown: nice.) Woody Guthrie’s knee-slapping spirit resides over “Dear Mr. Bankman”; John Macy’s steel guitar adds just the right touch of shimmer to “Family Tree”; “Long Dusty Highway” has moments that are pure disco ball (in a good way); and the band’s cover of U2’s “One Tree Hill” is an unexpected pleasure: by applying classic high lonesomeness and flashes of worldly rhythms, Whitewater Ramble takes the tune out of the stadium and sets it down on the back porch, losing none of its soulfulness along the way.
Whitewater Ramble effortlessly shifts scenery: just when you think you’re nicely settled in on a hay bale at the hoedown, there’ll be a hint of Latin-flavored vibe eased into the mix … and then they flip the blinker on to make a hard left into Memphis – or throw on their RayBans and get all late-night jazzbo on you.
The key to making such eclectic change-ups listenable is smooth shapeshifting – and these guys are masters. Dig into Roots & Grooves.
Brian Robbins thinks he has a dusty bottle of Jameson’s over at www.brian-robbins.com