Roots Asylum’s “Ride On”

Roots Asylum’s eleven-track release Ride On dives deep into a great rock and roll sound on many tracks. However, they don’t limit themselves. The five members of Roots Asylum, led by lead singer and rhythm guitarist Jimmy Macaroni (McMillan), are equally at home with blues, acoustic arrangements, and even a dash of country music and punk rock inclinations for good measure. You can’t label their music Americana as that implies a purist retro approach, and there’s a level of urgency infused into their music that defies such categorizations. Listeners can’t ignore the throwback aspects. What Roots Asylum does though is take these time-tested styles and revamp them for a modern audience.

They are definitely an authoritative rock band when they want to be one. “Talk About Me” serves notice of that from the outset with a four-to-the-floor treatment that leaves no doubt about their ability to knock listeners back in their seats. The blending of their dual vocal approach helmed by singer, songwriter, and rhythm guitarist Jimmy McMillan alongside harmony vocalist Katy Velten is a gripping union with Jeremy Timmer’s electric guitar and the rhythm section of drummer A.A. Miller and bassist Carrick Craig. However, it works spectacularly well.

“90’s Grunge” has already proven to be one of the band’s most popular tunes. It’s easy to hear why. The gentle spoofing of that genre with the lyrics rifling through a grab bag of legendary song titles from that decade coalesces into a surprisingly durable example of songwriting. It keeps up with the same frantic pacing of the album opener, and Jimmy McMillan’s vocal delivery bursts forth with personality. “Ride On”, especially its chorus, has a much more anthemic quality than anything else included in the release. However, the five-piece has an underrated penchant for invoking memorable dynamics, and the vocal interplay between McMillan and Velten is potent.

They deliver the goods with a meticulous yet lively cover of The Traveling Wilburys’ “Handle with Care”. Some covers don’t work when they are literal reproductions of the original, but there’s enough subtle variance with the classic that Roots Asylum succeeds in carving out its own niche with the cut. “Girl in a Tower” conjures immediate images as a song title, and the general feel of the song gives it a breezy grace, like riding down an open highway in a convertible. Timmer’s sparkling guitar lines give the song added buoyancy.

“Christmas Sucks” takes its place as one of the more outright goofy, in the best possible way, tracks included on this release. This stomping neo-punk tune doesn’t take itself seriously for even a second, but it’s played with polish and well-recorded. It’s a fitting track amidst the album’s more serious moments, but it likewise shows that this is a band committed to having fun and imparting the same to their audience. Roots Asylum’s Ride On does an excellent job of two things above all else. It pours old wine into new bottles with undeniable skill and supplies listeners with an audience-friendly ride that holds up under repeated listens. It’s well worth the ride.

Chadwick Easton


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