There is nothing lively about its title but the new EP from US rock band Rugby Road, simply called III, more than makes up for that with its heartily tenacious sound. An encounter which like us you may have missed upon its release as 2016 closed its eyes; the four track encounter is an ear pleasing, skilfully offered slice of multi-flavoured rock ‘n’ roll as bluesy and passionate as it is melodically captivating and instinctively boisterous.
Consisting of Kenny Kearns (vocals, keyboards, bass, guitar), Rich Pruett (drums, percussion, vocals), and Derek Smith (guitars, vocals), Philadelphia based Rugby Road began in 1990 drawing on inspirations found in the likes of Allman Brothers Band, Maceo Parker, Rusted Root, Bill Kreutzmann, Phish, Peter Frampton, and Dirty Dozen Brass Band. A regular in the late 90’s New York City Wetlands scene, the band has released a pair of albums, the 1998 unveiled Times Already Happened and three years later Different Degrees. More recently Kearns and the band have founded The Wayne Music Festival (now officially WXPN Welcomes The Wayne Music Festival) which since starting in 2015 has attracted more than 10,000 people each year to enjoy everything from country, bluegrass, jazz, pop, and rock from artists coming together from all over the country.
Recorded with producer Derek Chafin, III offers songs which according to Kearns “reflect what we’ve been working towards for years from a writing perspective.” It opens up with Back To You, a track which unmistakably has a rich feel of Bruce Springsteen to its rock ‘n’ roll but soon shows its own imaginative enterprise as suggestive melodies unite with the darker and denser rhythmic shadows of bass and Pruett’s crisp beats. Swiftly its magnetism is inescapable, the track a flame of craft and instinctive employment of influences and new endeavour, and just as quickly powerfully catchy. With a collection of vocals at times surrounding Kearns and the additional irresistible tones of a lady whose name has yet to be discovered, the song only escalates an attraction already sparked by the hazy weave cast by guitars.
The following Nobody (Needs To Know) is just as magnetic, it’s mellower but no less tenacious balladry carrying a soulful air and heart as blues kissed guitars spin a web of enticement around Kearns’ continually strong vocals. As with its predecessor, there is something quickly familiar to the song but only spicing adding to its appeal as its classic rock breeding grabs eager ears.
Spoken For unveils an even calmer canvas for its own emotive ballad next, though again it is a song with a blaze in its belly which from time to time urges more intensive expulsions of sound and energy. With the earthy tones of the bass almost growling alongside the contemplation of melody and voice, the song smoulders and slowly grows to rival those before it; eclipsing its immediate predecessor over time.
Bringing things to an enjoyable close is Give It Away, a country rock lined slice of rock which again has something of Springsteen about it as well as a Tom Petty-esque essence which does it no harm at all. For personal tastes, the song fails to match its companions but there is no denying its infectious ability to please as keenly tapping feet here can testify and it is fair to say that with every listen thoughts about the song only gain a more enamoured lilt.
Though it is annoying to say, we are new to Rugby Road but after having III sparking definite pleasure with its accomplished and refreshing presence, we can join the mass of others calling themselves fans of the band.
III is out now across most online stores.
Pete RingMaster 10/05/2017
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