Rusted Root | Runs Rampant

"Expect the best of Rusted Root and expect the unexpected,” Glabicki says, with a smile in his voice.




     Rusted Root tends to be one of those artists that fly under the radar of most music lovers. Despite having toured with such notable acts such as The Grateful Dead, Santana, Dave Matthews Band and the Jimmy Page/Robert Plant reunion, if you ask the average person if they’ve ever heard of Rusted Root, chances are you’ll be met with a puzzled look that conveys the, “I think I’ve heard of them…” response. 

      The bands biggest hit to date was “Send Me On My Way” from the 1994 album When I Woke (Mercury Records). The song has been featured in several films, television shows and commercials, yet commercial success has always seemed to elude the band. Despite a solid, unique sound and tens of thousands of fans world-wide, the band still hasn’t quite hit the American mainstream consciousness. However, this has worked in Rusted Root’s favor artistically since the band formed in 1990. 

      Knowing who its fans are, and while certainly wanting to attract new listeners and venues, the band has shrewdly eschewed going for a mainstream sound for most of its career. The earlier albums tended to be a bit more chaotic and wild- songs like “Rain,” “Martyr,” and “Back To The Earth” made you want to wantonly dance in a field in the rain. But with each subsequent album, the lack of expectation to sound like a Top 40 bubble-gum act allowed the band to improve their songwriting skills and flourish as artists. Michael Glabicki— founder, guitarist and vocalist of the Pittsburgh, PA based band— has deftly parlayed this lack of expectation into six well-constructed studio albums and several live collections that manage to capture the band’s amazing on-stage sound. 

      The most recent album, Stereo Rodeo (2009, Touchy Pegg/Adrenaline/DKE), and When I Woke sound very dissimilar, yet there are trademarks that are undeniably Rusted Root: texturally rich layers of African, Latin and Asian percussion; Glabicki’s signature vocal style; and an element of funk slyly mixed into nearly every song. As the years have wore on, the gang of young hippies of Rusted Root’s early days have given way to the older, more centered and wiser songwriters of the band’s current incarnation. Though members have come and gone, Glabicki- along with co-founders Liz Berlin and Patrick Norman- have been the glue holding the band together.  

      There are some fans from back-in-the-day who don’t care for the more mature output the band has been creating the last decade— ironic considering those that are wanting to pigeon-hole the band now are the same ones that celebrated their uniqueness back in the mid-1990s. Glabicki has faith that the music will win out and that fans will come around. 

      “I never really think about it that much,” says Glabicki during a recent phone interview, in response to the question of whether or not he gets tired of fans wanting Rusted Root to fit into a certain niche. “I want to be a part of all scenes. But at the same time, whenever I’ve tried to write songs going in one direction, it’s never worked for me. I don’t always know what I’m doing, but I’m always doing it differently.” 

      The newest album has a distinct alt-country flavor on a good number of songs, most notably on the title track “Stereo Rodeo” as well as “Weary Bones” and “Crucible Glow.” There are a few funky tracks— such as the anti-George Bush ode “Bad Son,” which is about as political as Rusted Root has ever been— and “Driving One” and Driving Two.” Previous albums have included cover songs such as The Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and “Evil Ways” by Santana. This time around we’re treated to a Latin-flavored version of Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds.” 

      “Often, we don’t have anything in mind,” when selecting cover songs, Glabicki states. “They usually pop up spontaneously in rehearsals or sound check.”  

      And speaking of sound check, the band has always thrived on touring and the live show. “It’s going really great right now,” says Glabicki. “I still crave it. I start to get itchy after being at home for a few weeks.” The band has spent countless months on the road over the last 20 years, and the live shows are still where you’ll find the band’s core audience. Though not quite the legion that once followed the Grateful Dead, Rusted Root has maintained a healthy fan base that follow them from show to show due to amazing sets turned in at headlining shows and festivals all over the world. 

      The band has been touring off and on since the last album’s release and due to the shift in their songwriting, they have attracted new fans and followers. The most recent tour will begin on June 3 in Boalsburg, PA and wind its way across the East coast and Midwest through September 4 (Rusted Root will be performing at The Old Rock House in St. Louis, MO on Sunday, June 12).  

      Since they’re not doing a big push for a brand-new album, Rusted Root is looking to have a lot of fun on this tour. While songs from Rodeo are going to have a prominent role in the set lists, fans can also expect to hear the songs that made them fall in love with Rusted Root in the first place.  

      “Expect the best of Rusted Root and expect the unexpected,” Glabicki says, with a smile in his voice. | Tyson Blanquart  

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