Review: Rosco Levee & The
Rosco Levee & The Southern Slide - "Final
Approach To Home"
CD / MP3 - 25 Feb 2013 - Red Train Records
It seemed amazing to find by chance Rosco Levee & The Southern Slide's marvellous videos on YouTube, a journey of discovery that continued upon finding out that this exceptional five piece band, whose music is described on their website as 'Country Southern rock'n'voodoo Mariachi', were based in Thanet and not some far flung Funksville, USA in a deep and sun baked Southern State.
Further revelations were in store during repeated listenings to their stupendous debut CD. These accomplished musicians led by Rosco's singing of his finely crafted songs, and skilfully committed slide guitar work, have made a shimmering collection of twelve varied and engrossing songs in the Americana genre. Americana is a broad church and this band has cherry picked a feast that has echoes of the 'Cosmic Cowboy' scene of the 1970's, and also lashings of good ol' Southern boogie.
It's clear and confident opening statement of intent, the soul stirring and organically earthy headlong charge of Goldrush which has received radio plays in America and the UK, and acclaim from many notable quarters, while also being nominated for 'Best Original Song' category of The British Blues Awards 2013, declares this to be an album well worth owning and delving into.
With the saloon doors kicked open wide Rosco & The Southern Slide are ready to rumble, with Seven Seas Is My Name and you find yourself listening with ever increasing interest to Rosco's succinct and heartfelt lyrics as his cinematic songs are able to nail in a sharp line or couplet both personal and universal feelings. This deep vein continues to be mined using several different musical forms as the band fires on all cylinders delivering these tales with uplifting soulful energy. A factor that unites them is the blending of the frontier mythos with a personal Odyssey that repeatedly emphasises the importance of the solid foundation of the singer's home.
With various exuberant nods of acknowlegement to those pioneers of this music who blazed the trail in former times including The Band, The Allman Brothers and Delaney Bramlettt as well as more recent kin such as The Black Crowes, a singular and original voice emerges here. Intimations of gospel, blues & soul weave in and out of these fine songs, that in addition to their driving and rhythmic beat are sprinkled liberally with intriguing and virtuoso instrumentation. The mandolin playing of Andy Hayes is beautiful, and Lee Wilson's piano and keys shines out at many points, not least on the train song Never Stops which also has lovely harmony singing that put me in mind of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
With the rhythm section of Simon Gardiner, bass, and Dave Tettmar , drums, they produce an exiting sound with sometimes abrupt changes of pace mid song that serves the dynamics of these tracks well, and the listener is drawn in without any 'flashiness' being required. 97 To 3, with Rosco's terrific slide guitar to the fore is a real toe tapper presented with with great panache and style.
All of the tracks have their individual merits, and are sequenced in such an intuitively satisfying way that they each seem to contribute to a steadily unfolding panoramic picture. Two stand out tracks for me are I Got Soul which has a methodical stately pace, and is a gospel soaked song of intense emotional honesty and resonance. Hey Lady more than lives up to the 'Mariachi' part in the earlier description of the band's music, as it conjures up imagery of a wide screen Western filmed as so many were in the New Mexico desert with it's sheer rock stacks and giant cacti, while Rosco sings an affecting yearning ballad against a back drop of plaintive Mariachi trumpets and guitar flourishes, with the refrain "And build your dreams up high, reach for the skies"... indeed so!
From the vigorous exemplary guitar work on Old Bessie to the elegiac Southern Gothic outlaw tale of Ol' Shanky Shake that references a murder, a ghost, and being on the run, hiding out in the 'Badlands', Rosco and his band demonstrate their sure touch with this music even as they renew it with freshness and vibrancy.
With the grand anthemic finale heralded by majestic keyboard swirls When You've Gone To Ramble all the previous themes are gathered together into one final surge, with it's climatic build and accompanying triumphant horns, the track ascends to those big open skies and is suddenly gone ... ”Who were those masked men ?”... catch 'em live when you can (they perform a gripping and outstanding show!) and if you invest in this impressively produced and recorded audio slice of Southern authenticity you'll reap a rich reward.
Submitted by Nigel Warton
26 June 2013