Photo credit: Wayne Litmer
One of the best parts about writing reviews of local music releases is that I get to hear a lot of music – from every genre, and every level of production. But most of all is that it’s authentic. The bands and artists have put everything they had into making the best record they can, and making for themselves. They believe in what they’re doing, and that belief truly comes across in the music. It stands in sharp contrast to the overproduced, contrived pablum on a lot of commercial radio -- written by focus groups instead of songwriters.
That authenticity, that belief in the music, is everywhere on Lonesome Miles, the newest release from local country-rock group Root Cellar Xtract. The album opens with “South Dakota Sky,” its gentle fiddle and guitar coming on like a sunrise over the morning dew. The groove picks up on “Mystery Lady,” featuring a hypnotic guitar riff guiding the listener through the forest of reserved, almost demure vocals.
“Everytime” slows the tempo, taking time to reflect on the introspective, insightful lyrics. The record picks back up with “Kentucky Heartbreak,” a classic foot-stomper with great harmonies and a memorable hook, as well as a lively, old-timey piano solo. “It Ain’t Easy” mellows again; a dark, brooding ballad with lyrics riddled with a pensive, almost guilty reflection.
“Abandoned and Alone” draws on a classic country-rock vibe, with lyrics full of regrets and verses set to make you cry in your beer. “Six Feet Closer To Hell” is a funky, minor little number with a great groove - an eleventh-hour (and welcome) addition to the record. The peppy “I Know” shows more of the band’s range, pulling off a great bluegrassy vibe, complete with great fiddle, a wandering mandolin, and more of those great harmonies.
“Forever Is Never” opens with a simple piano, setting up for a classic ballad - in this case, a melancholy remembrance of a marriage gone bad. The band returns to an effortlessly smooth groove on “A Little Love In Your Arms,” with a highlight of a pedal steel solo from outer space. A tempo boost comes in with “Space Between Places,” with a vibe that feels at home on late 90s college radio, while maintaining its cohesion with the rest of the album. The electric piano that kicks off “Fork In That Dark Road” sets up a big, rich song, with long, sustaining vocals over a driving beat -- also featuring some of the best bass parts on the record, which is quite a statement.
The record slows down again on “She’s The Edge Of The Night,” a song that wears its somber heart on its sleeve. “Space Under the Hood,” the closing track of the album, punctuates the ending nicely with yet another hook-driven groove that will have you tapping your foot along.
RCx is a tight band, deftly moving between and even blending multiple genres and styles, all while pulling off some very tasteful, rich harmonies. It all provides a solid foundation for some insightful, earnest lyrics and vocals that feel restrained, allowing the listener just enough room to fill in the gaps. The band, and this album, are certainly steeped in the West Coast country-rock of the 70s, but they have taken those influences and made them into something uniquely their own.
Lonesome Miles does not put on airs; it just lays RCx’s truth out, authentic and honest, for everyone to hear.
- South Dakota Sky
- Mystery Lady
- Kentucky Heartbreak
- It Ain’t Easy
- Abandoned and Alone
- Six Feet Closer To Hell
- I Know
- Forever Is Never
- A Little Love In Your Arms
- Space Between Places
- Fork In That Dark Road
- She’s The Edge Of The Night
- Space Under The Hood