Earth Trip – Rose City Band – Album Review
by Cathy Brown
If last year’s Rose City Band offering Summerlong was the soundtrack to driving on a desert highway with the top down, then this year’s follow-up Earth Trip is a more relaxed affair, more suited to playing by the campfire as the sun goes down.
Earth Trip works as a nice counterpoint to Summerlong, acting as a continuation of Ripley Johnson’s journey into the world of pure Americana, albeit with a countrified, psychedelic twist.
Borne out of being forced off the road and into lockdown last year, Earth Trip is Johnson’s response to being compelled to stay at home. ‘All of this allows me to form new connections to my surroundings,’ he says, ‘everything from tending to a garden, to sleeping out under the stars. It may sound silly; nevertheless, I found renewed hope and healing in a more mindful relationship with the natural world.’
What he has created is a gorgeous summer record, filled with laid back country-tinged tracks fortified by a hazy introspective psych tone, amplified with euphoric guitar lines and weathered grooves. Featuring the same line-up as last year’s release, Earth Trip orbits around Johnson’s stunning guitar playing, featuring Barry Walker’s incandescent pedal steel and John Jeffrey’s understated percussion.
Opening with the chilled-out sound of Silver Roses, it is a formula from which Johnson rarely deviates. ‘Called down off the road/ free fallin’ in the rain’, he sings, setting the tone for a series of gently buoyant songs all exploring the healing power of nature and featuring a cosmic, dream-like vibe. The summery sound of In the Rain combines judicious use of the jaw harp and harmonica with Johnson’s reverbed vocals to create a sound that is not unlike The Stone Roses. The lush sound of World is Turning embraces ‘70s country and provides a showcase for Johnson’s impressive guitar lines, while the jauntier vibe of Lonely Places, with its easy-going ethereal groove, brings to mind The Eagles at their most mellow. Echoes of Johnson’s previous incarnation as part of Wooden Shjips only arise in the mercurial psych-rock swagger of album closer Dawn Patrol.
This is an unhurried album of sedate tempos, effortless chord changes and assured musicianship, which unfurls with a direct countrified precision. Recorded mainly at home by Johnson and producer Cooper Crain, these eight songs are beautifully arranged with a subtle clarity, sustaining an aura that is steadily relaxed yet reassuringly blissful.
Given the year that we have all just experienced, it’s no surprise that Earth Trip is a more introspective and downbeat album than its predecessor, but Rose City Band have produced a record of attractive ambient Americana which captivates the listener once again with their loose, lush charm.