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Dusty Rhodes and The River Band – First You Live

Is bluegrass influenced music making a comeback? I don’t mean that bullshit that they try to pass off at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. The Yonder Mountain String band plays jam band music, and if that is your thing, fine, just don’t call it bluegrass. However, lately I have heard more bands incorporating old-timey bluegrass into a more modern sound.


An example of this, Dusty Rhodes and the River Band, is surprisingly from Orange County. You may recognize the OC as being the locale for several terrible television shows and a strange spot for over-privileged white kids to play or listen to music laced with banjo, harmonica, and accordion. Yet with the release of First You Live, it has happened.

Before you get the wrong idea, Dusty Rhodes is not strictly bluegrass. The intro and the title song has multitude of instruments rising in intensity, with a chorus of voices and single violin above it all. It sounds like what I would imagine if the Polyphonic Spree took on a darker, alt-country bent.

Have you ever wondered what it would sound like if Charlie Daniels had collaborated with Yes? Me neither, but the song “Street Fighter” would have undoubtedly been the result. It is a surprising blend of extended prog-rock style keyboards, fiddling, hard-core electric guitar and vocals that are more shouted than sung. God help me, it is actually pretty fucking awesome. You have to have a lot of balls to make a song like that these days, and talent to pull it off.

Song to song, First You Live meanders through genres while maintaining a core feel. All of the songs are filled with heart and the joy of making music. Most tracks are hard not to sing along with despite not knowing the words. The six-piece band puts out a huge sound that could make for a stupefying live show. After reading the description and press release, I was not looking forward to listening to another mediocre CD, but Dusty Rhodes and the River band have put together the most interesting and refreshing album I’ve heard in a while.


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