Ripley Johnson is nothing if not prolific. Between Wooden Shjips and Moon Duo alone, the songs seem to be ever flowing. The same can be said for his country Americana side project Rose City Band. With a new album Earth Trip out now, the singer songwriter delivers a release full of country twang while easily steering the ship towards what country used to be without sounding dated. Across eight well crafted tracks Rose City Band brings you an authenticity modern country music has lacked for decades.
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The opener “Silver Roses” displays the authenticity from the start. The pedal steel echoes between the piano and the guitar with the drums in the back like they used to be. With a distanced vocal Johnson delivers the sound of a road weary traveler without dragging you down. The earnest tones and well arranged notes have an organic hook in how the song plays out. There’s just such a brevity in the music that it takes you over and doesn’t loosen its grip. The same can be said of following song “In The Rain.” The melodic sounds that emanate deliver an honest tone that slowly pulls you closer like a lover with a secret. The build of the song alone is something to behold, yet the weight in the pay off is something else entirely. Even on the trippy sounds that flow throughout “World is Turning,” Johnson pulls alongside artists like Doug Sahm in adding their own stamp to the genre without watering it down.
The hearty twang of “Lonely Places” has just enough stomp and pop to move the song along with Johnson’s soft vocals. The earnest approach takes you back to a time when country was the music of the people and not a marketing tool to sell beer. And while “Ramblin’ With The Day” displays such southern charm that it soaks you in its sing song approach, the softer side of the album comes on “Rabbit.” Holding on to that seventies Americana meets country vibe, the use of the keys here are extraordinary. Taking your ears closer to a singer songwriter world, Johnson does so with grace and a tremolo touched vocal that sticks with you. And while the long running “Dawn Patrol” is a perfect closer here, our favorite song came on “Feel Of Love.” The slower stride lets the instruments breathe and set the stage for their presence. Johnson intimately sings as if he’s doing so for his freedom. The honesty in how the song sounds along with the tender vocals opens you up to another side of what Rose City Band offers without flipping the script. The guitar work is mesmerizing and you should realize that great country can come from anywhere if it’s written by the right person. Here Johnson shows he’s definitely the right person.
Earth Trip can be purchased directly from Thrill Jockey Records. It’s also available in all digital music stores or it can be streamed on all streaming sites. Rose City Band is set to appear in person at Dundee Lodge Campout 2021 in Gaston, OR on August 21.
Image Credits: Photo Courtesy of Artist.