First You Live – Dusty Rhodes and the River Band

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Drums, accordions, harmonica, mandolin, banjo, a healthy dose of violin; expect the witches’ bluegrass brew in the music of Dusty Rhodes and the River Band. The 13 tracks featured here have this six-piece band pulling out every rag tag stop in an often willfully discordant hodgepodge.

It would be quite a mess if not handled by such competent players.

Competent, and classic. It seems the group, when not making a maelstrom of noise, is main-lining from the past. Kansas in the instrumental sections of a song like “Street Fighter”; The Band all over the damn thing, Syd Barrett mixed with Beach Boys on “Goodnight Moonshine”. I even swear I hear the ghost of Johnny Cash himself. I guess it isn’t a surprise to taste some country flavor with this sort of instrumentation, but on vigorous tracks like “Leaving Tennessee”, you know these guys are a sum of their influences, not a slave to them.

If I have any criticism of the album, it'd be my personal craving for a few slow and heartfelt numbers. I adore the violin vocal interplay in their song “Oh, Icicle,” and while the band bursts in after the first verse in a tastefully arranged fashion, I'm sill imagining the piece as a ballad with Andrea Babinski’s poignant violin free of the boisterous blend in which its quickly submerged.