ROOSEVELT DIME’s “Crooked Roots”

rooseveltDime(, 2009): “We’ve got crooked roots, but we learned to grow up straight somehow,” sings the off-kilter, Brooklyn-based, banjo-blues ‘n’ more trio.

I’m not sure that I believe ’em, though, ’cause this acoustic roots threesome doesn’t seem to do anything straight. Andrew Green (banjo, vocals) would seem to be the man in charge, but he’s joined by bassist Eben Pariser and drummer Tony Montalbano to round out the triumverate. And it seems a bit too calculated and pre-meditated for my tastes.

Recorded in Queens and mixed in Nashville, this disc is a bastard son of 21st century rural sensabilities – part neo-old-timey, part urban twang, part whatever-else-ya-got. It’s good stuff, but it’s difficult to determine just what the target he, or who they think their audience is. The songs have solid pop vocal harmonies and song-structure, which may chase away old-timey diehards. And the trio bolsters its sound with an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink array of instrumental voices that range from pedal steel guitar to tuba to uilleann pipes.

Got this band cornered yet? Not likely. And then let’s just toss another curveball into the mix. Wanna guess what you get as the lone cover amidst the ten tunes on the album? That’s right – Radiohead. Fortunately, “High & Dry” works better than most pop-to-old-timey translations, focusing more on the relaxed, back porch sensibility as opposed to the high concept arrangement.

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