Preview: Rusted Root celebrates 20 years with new album and extensive tour


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Rusted Root spent last week trekking around the Grand Canyon, from Utah to Colorado, far away from Hurricane Sandy and the overall dreariness of its mid-Atlantic hometown.

Still, the band was feeling a touch of fatigue.

"We've been out for three months, with a little time off in the middle there," said frontman Michael Glabicki, "so we're all at the point where we're having a lot of fun, but our nuts and bolts are starting to come off."

While members did manage to actually see the sun, he said, "Our voices are running a little ragged, and people have aches and pains and all that. We just drove 14 hours from Grand Junction and just going up and down the altitude, my head feels like it's going to explode from the pressure."

Rusted Root

Where and when: The band performs a fundraiser for Big Brother's Big Sisters at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the Palace Theatre, Greensburg ($25); and on the Gateway Clipper on Nov. 21, boarding at 7 p.m. and sailing at 8 p.m. ($25).

Ticket information: www.rustedroot.com.

The Pittsburgh band is spending the latter half of 2012 celebrating its 20th anniversary and the release of its seventh album, "The Movement," which gets it back to the tribal rock style of 1994's major label breakout, "When I Woke."

Mr. Glabicki said that Rusted Root's last album, 2007's "Stereo Rodeo," was "more of an experimental record for us in the sense that I kind of mixed in some of the things I wanted to do solo for that record, and I kind of blended the two, which I think made for a great record, but I don't think it took Rusted Root where it needed to go. On this record I really went through the songs and sorted them out first. I just made sure that what was on this record was going to take Rusted Root to the next level."

The title track, "The Movement," serves as a focus, and one that can galvanize Root's empowered and colorful following.

"It developed out of my sense of where we are in the world," Mr. Glabicki said, "and where I believe we're turning to, and this critical time in history. I think this domination of powers in the world [is being] confronted now the way it hasn't in the past and the logical conclusion is that that power will be taken away and given to the people."

On the more primal and playful side is the lead track, which comes with a call to "dance with your monkey pants on!" You're not required to wear those to a Rusted Root show.

"I think it's just about our human animal," the singer says, "and our ability to be compassionate and love and kind of dream ourselves into existence. I think it's a good opener for the record for that reason."

Mr. Glabicki produced the album himself and the band made it through a fan-funded campaign it called "Fortunate Freaks Unite."

"We had people come to the studio for the day and just sit there and watch us record and have conversations about the music and at the end of the day they got to participate in some hand claps and some yelling on the record, and we had packages where fans can come to soundchecks. We'd rather be creative with the fans than just make our recordings and play our shows. It's a lot of fun for everybody."

After three albums on Island/Polygram and one on Rusted Root's indie imprint, "The Movement" is the band's first with Shanachie, a label renowned for world music, reggae and Celtic artists, ranging from The Chieftains to Rita Marley to Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

"When we had the finished product in hand, we went out and looked for a label to promote and market the record," Mr. Glabicki said. "As of now it's been nothing but great."

After the tour, the band plans to hit Europe for the first time since it toured with Page/Plant, and also hopes to do Japan, Australia and South America.

"We're going to release this record worldwide, and we've been getting a lot of response just putting our feelers out. I think it's going to be great, because, we went to Alaska, which we had never gone to, and we sold out the first show, and we sold out the second show, and it was just like Graffiti back in the day where fans come out and they're jumping around more than usual. I kind of think that's going to happen in Europe and Australia."

Root has gone through a lot of changes since it debuted as a quartet, expanded into the seven-piece ensemble that opened for the Grateful Dead at Three Rivers Stadium in 1995, and then saw its core reduced to Mr. Glabicki, Liz Berlin and Patrick Norman. They are rounded out by Colter Harper, Preach Freedom and Dirk Miller.

"We are clicking full throttle right now -- it's an amazingly intuitive group," Mr. Glabicki said, "and the arrangements are shockingly right. I think it is much less work now and a bit more fun. Preach's drums are fierce and fearless and Colter's layering of guitar lines have a more studied African feel."

music

Scott Mervis: smervis@post-gazette.com; 412-263-2576. Twitter: @scottmervis_pg. First Published November 8, 2012 5:00 AM


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