First You Live

Dusty Rhodes and the River Band

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First You Live Review

by Marisa Brown

Coming from a place (and a label) not exactly known for its grinding Southern rock-influenced alt-country, Dusty Rhodes and the River Band play music that sounds a lot closer to something that might exist in Nashville rather than Orange County. Not that this is authentic country, but the band clearly doesn't mean it to be, either -- there are strong jam band leanings as well as more straightforward rock ones, the kind of stuff played by guys who grew up both on hardcore punk (and then listened to the singer/songwriter stuff a lot of them got into later) and the Allman Brothers, with lyrics a lot closer to something by O.A.R. than Johnny Cash, simple rhymes, and straightforward themes. Dusty Rhodes and the River Band are out to have a good time, to entertain, to rock, and because of this, there's a lot of diversity among the tracks of their debut full-length, First You Live, from the gospel-ish "Keys to the Truck" to the banjo-filled "Leaving Tennessee" to the mainstream rock of "Strike" to the outlaw country-influenced "Grampa Mac." In fact, there's almost too much diversity. The songs move around so much, sometimes even within the same piece (in "Dear Honey," for example, which switches between mandolin-driven British folk-inspired and more raucous bits, à la Dropkick Murphys-lite, a little disconcertingly), never quite settling into a sound before it changes, that listeners are merely tempted by what they could have but are not satisfied by what they are given. Dusty Rhodes and the River Band seem to be trying so hard to show off their various influences that they're unable to define and show who they actually are, thereby losing some of what they actually could be, and making First You Live fall a little short.

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