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Rose City Band – Summerlong

May 26, 2020
Latest from Rose City Band: Summerlong

I picked up the Thrill Jockey reissue of Rose City Band’s debut earlier this year and instantly became obsessed with it. I have been looking forward to the follow-up.  Summerlong sounds like the second chapter of the same book. That’s OK with me as I couldn’t get enough of the debut. The debut really hit me with its mellow psychedelic Grateful Dead vibe. The debut has a bit of low-fi vibe in its production, whereas, Summerlong is more polished. The debut was meandering and trippy, Summerlong is more conventional country-rock – a microdose of psychedelia vs the full dose of the debut.

The debut’s back story was as murky as the music. There was no back story, it just appeared. After much research, I discovered it was Ripley Johnson, the psychedelic bandleader of Wooden Shjips and one half of Moon Duo.

The new album has a little more PR, but still low profile by today’s standards. Per Thrill City’s website here is the story on Summerlong:

Rose City Band started purely as a recording project, with Johnson’s role mostly obscured for the self-titled debut album. Released with no promotion, in the style of private press records, it was a liberating act, a focus on music without any expectations. Explaining it with a chuckle, Johnson elaborates, “I always would threaten to my friends that I’m gonna start a country rock band so I can retire and just play down at the pub every Thursday night during happy hour. I love being able to tour and travel, but I also like the idea of having a local band … more of a social music experience.” Freedom from expectation and obligation gave Johnson the space to experiment with new instrumentation and arrangements. The introduction of lap steel, mandolin, and jaw harp enhance Johnson’s lean guitar work with radiant overtones, placing Summerlong more overtly within the country tradition than its predecessor.

The debut really captured me because it came out of thin air and surprised me. The new album is just as good, but it does not have the surprise factor of the first. I appreciate the perfection of the sound of Summerlong without it getting too slick. If you like the mellow, but guitar-heavy jams, of Jerry Garcia and J.J. Cale you will dig this album. Although it has a country feel, it is also funky and bluesy at times. This album goes down easy, listen to it with intention – there’s a complexity that is worthy of your attention.

The album is available now on some streaming services (e.g. it is on Spotify, but not on Tidal) and will be available on vinyl June 19.

From → Music Reviews

2 Comments
  1. It’s on the list. I loved the debut.

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