The fact that Red Rooster has managed to capture the dichotomy of modern American roots music using just the same ten songs is nothing short of astounding. 'Dose' is certainly an early front runner for album of the year.
"Dose" is an exciting double-disk adventure that will bring you months, if not years, of listening pleasure.
A potent combination of country, blues, folk, rock and hip-hop, Red Rooster's new double-disk release,
"Dose," represents the best of American roots music with a distinctly urban twist.
From the liner notes:
When we began to think about what direction we wanted to take this album, one of the ideas that emerged was to record two versions
of each song. Though doubling the workload seemed daunting, we began to lay down some guidelines. On the first disc,
we took advantage of every modern tool at our disposal, from amplifiers and distortion pedals to samples and computers.
For the second disc, we stripped down to our acoustic instruments and natural sounds that could be captured only with a microphone.
We also explored alternate melodies, lyrics, chord structures, tempos, and time signatures and started wondering: What makes a song a song?
How far can you stretch a song while still keeping its essence -the thread of the song- intact? How do the differences change meaning?
We're not sure we answered any of these questions, but we had a great time asking them.
While the above might sound either a little music-geeky, ridiculous, or just plain geeky; you will not be disappointed by the
album. Above all, we focused on the music being plain kick-ass and made sure each disk and each song would stand on its own.
Dobro, Electric Guitar and Acoustic Guitar:
Drums and Body Percussion:
Electric Bass, Acoustic Bass, Mandolin:
Fiddle (except Mexico Revisited - Disk 1): Liam Bailey
Fiddle (Mexico Revisited - Disk 1):
Jamie Forrest, Charlotte Kendrick
, Brian Keane
, Keith Porteous
, Jay Erickson
Lead Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Nylon String Guitar:
Jay Erickson (except Charlotte Kendrick
lead vocals on Dreams - Disk 1)
Pedal Steel Guitar: Bob Parrins
Synthesizer, Bass Trap, Acoustic Guitar:
Graphic Design: Stuart Rogers
Chorus on The Cold Ground - Disk 2:
John Erickson, Karen Erickson, Kristin Erickson, Jonathan Howe, Brian Keane
, Dan Rowe, Keith Porteous
, Jay Erickson, Charlotte Kendrick
, Jamie Forrest, Ted Shergalis, Matt Dellinger
Produced and engineered by Dan Rowe and Jay Erickson. Mixed by Saul Zonana (Disk 1) and Jamie Forrest (Disk 2). Mastered by Joe Lambert at Classic Sound, New York, NY. Electronic programming by Jay Erickson. Recorded at Paradise Hill Studios, Worth Street Sound Factory, Midtown Music Haus, Keane Ear Studios, Phillips Andover Academy, and a few other random places. Assistant Engineering at Paradise Hill: Dylan Strazar. All arrangements by Dan Rowe and Red Rooster.
Dose is a double-disc journey through the heart of
Americana and roots music, accessorized with DJ
scratches, gospel choirs and bluesy instrumentation.
The first disc features revved-up, fully electric versions
of 10 songs. Disc two includes intimate, acoustic
renditions of the same tracks.
The plugged-in versions of the songs incorporate
everything from country and rockabilly to hushed
piano balladry. The unplugged versions highlight
plaintive lyrics that deal with life, love and loss amid
intricate guitar work, weeping fiddles and Erickson's
aching vocal delivery.
Album standout Cold Ground morphs from blazing
guitars and honky-tonk rhythms into a mournful hymn,
driven by body percussion and a gospel choir. And
Sharp Dressed Man is radically changed by shifts in
emphasis and instrumentation.
-The Houston Chronicle
Music has no boundaries. So it should come as no surprise to find a roots band in the Big Apple. New York is home to many good bands, but not all offer such quality music as Red Rooster.
Formed in 1998 by longtime friends Jay Erickson, guitar and vocals, and Nick Zilkha, lead guitar, Red Rooster was originally an acoustic twosome. Since then, the group has evolved into an eclectic
urban orchestra boasting a variety of musicians and instruments, a DJ and even a choir. The band offers roots music -- bluegrass, folk and blues -- with a decidedly urban edge and with a
little hip-hop (not your brother's hip-hop) thrown in for good measure.
They self-produced their first album, Porch Songs, in 2002. Dose, their latest offering, is unique, both for the quality of the music and for the listening experience it has to offer.
Dose is a double-disc release offering two versions of each of 10 original songs. One disc is strictly acoustic while the other takes advantage of every modern tool available to the musician
-- from amplifiers and distortion pedals to samples and computers. It makes for an extraordinarily original experience.
With a personal preference for acoustic, I expected to favor that version. Instead, I found myself equally pleased with the variety offered by this concept. With lesser musicians,
the effect might not have been as pleasing. Some standouts are "The Cold Ground," "Mexico Revisited" and "Sharp Dressed Man."
Erickson's deep voice adds emotional depth, particularly on some of the more blues-oriented pieces. And, when he teams up with the silky smooth
voice of Charlotte Kendrick on "Sharp Dressed Man" on both discs and "Carry Me" on the amplified version, the result is truly moving.
Stellar back up is provided by Brian Keane on banjo, piano, organ; Marina Warsaw-Fann, cello; Michael Favreau, clarinet; Miles Crawford,
drums; Jamie Forrest, electric bass, acoustic bass and mandolin; Liam Bailey and Ted Shergatis, fiddle; Brandon Doyle, French horn; Jonathan Howe,
harmonica; Bob Parrins, pedal steel guitar; Dave Gould, sax; and Daniel Rowe, synthesizer, bass trap and acoustic guitar. The chorus for "The Cold Ground"
on disc two is John Erickson, Karen Erickson, Kristin Erickson, Jonathan Howe, Brian Keane, Dan Rowe, Keith Porteous, Jay Erickson,
Charlotte Kendrick, Jamie Forrest, Ted Shergatis and Matt Dellinger.
For its second recorded effort, Red Rooster, the duo of Jay Erickson and Nat Zilkha, had a novel concept. They recorded an entire program of 10 originals twice, resulting in a double-CD with one disc of full band production, the other with minimal acoustic instrumentation and sparse arrangements; melodies and tempos altered, the running order changes, and the ensemble version clocks in four minutes longer than the bare-bones version. This might be a gimmick, were it not for the fact that the songs are strong enough to stand up to reinterpretation, and the production and musicianship are excellent, whether fleshed out or stripped down.
The material is an eclectic mix of roots influences, with "Hold On Tight" recalling Dave Alvin and the Americana scene, "Sharp Dressed Man," a sweaty blues workout with harmonica and slide guitar, "Mexico Revisited" (with Michael Favreau's clarinet) sounding as much klezmer as conjunto, and "The Cold Ground" revved up bluegrass. Erickson's deep voice handles the singing, with Zilkha on lead guitar. On disc one, everything from French horn to cello to banjo to turntable shows up. And Erickson even hands over lead vocal on "Dreams" to Charlotte Kendrick, who does a fine job.
Disc two is not a collection of demos; it's just a different simpler way of looking at the same songs. The fact that some of the resultant renditions are significantly different is a testament to the pair's creativity.
For lack of a better term, Red Rooster falls into the "Americana" catch-all, and indeed they name people like Greg Brown, Bob Schneider, Lucinda Williams, Wilco and Steve Earle as favorites. Personally, I think their music, even for a sophomore release, is more interesting. Can't wait for "Tres."
-Vintage Guitar Magazine
There are two things that many artists wish for after completing an album. First, they wish they could do it over again, because now that they've done it, they could do it better. Second, they wish they could put at least one other version of each song on the album to show more of its many facets. Some artists actually do re-record albums they've just finished because they're not satisfied with them. And because they have lots of money. Very few, though, chase the latter wish, either because it's too much work, seems too self-indulgent or gimmicky, or maybe they just don't think they can pull it off.
Enter Red Rooster and their two-disc project Dose. CD 1 features ten songs all done with some variation of the full-band-and-then-some treatment. It's a great big stew of blues and pop and bluegrass and ethnic (think Mexicali and Klezmer) and "hick-hop" (sort of the Americana man's hip-hop) simmering over an urban fire. CD 2 offers up the same ten songs in dramatically different settings--all acoustic, tempos and approaches altered, much more "back porch" to use the title of the band's first release. The second of the two-CD set harkens back to that first album and the band's beginnings in roots-folk.
This New York City-based duo of Jay Erickson and Nat Zilkha has come a long way since that first album. They've picked up a bevy of instrumentalists to help them realize the much more ambitious and intriguing vision of Dose. Clarinet, french horn, turntable, piano, electric guitar and Hammond M3 (among others) join the more down home sounds of acoustic guitar, mandolin, fiddle and stand-up bass. The first CD uses any and all sounds, instruments and technologies available to the band to flesh out the edgier, more fiery versions of the songs. The premise of CD 2 is that they can only use sounds that can be transmitted acoustically through a mic.
As daring and interesting an idea as two recordings of the same material is, it all rests on the strength of the songs, for with weak material the concept just dissolves into gimmick. A bad song is a bad song, regardless of how many ways you interpret it. Luckily, Red Rooster delivers ten well-written, compelling songs easily strong enough to stand up to reinterpretation. Highlights include "Sharp Dressed Man", which on CD 1 is an electric blues burner, but becomes the sad plaint of a doomed man on acoustic guitar with the sympathetic moan of a fiddle on CD 2, and "The Cold Ground" which undergoes a similarly dramatic transformation. On the first CD it's a kind of electric country hootenany, while on CD 2 it's a powerful gospel chant given flesh only by a chorus of voices and body percussion. In general, the second CD explores the more tender, poignant sides of the songs, a boon, since these lyrics bear examining in that light. If, however, you're in the mood for something a little more rocking, fire up CD 1.
Erickson's deep voice has undergone a maturing since Porch Songs, it seems. Always pleasant, on Dose it's more complex with a broader emotional range. But then, the material would demand that. A welcome addition to the vocal landscape of this record is the lovely voice of singer songwriter Charlotte Kendrick. Her light, silky voice complements Erickson's deep brown beautifully and she breathes magic into the song "Dreams" singing lead vocals on Disc 1's version.
According to the liner notes, in the course of making Dose, Red Rooster asked philosophical questions like "what makes a song a song?" and "how far can you stretch a song while keeping the heart of it intact?" While these are interesting questions, in the end, when all the exploration and stretching and asking are done, one question remains, one question matters. Does the album work, does it have soul? Dose does.
At the core, Red Rooster features Erickson's bone-rattling bass vocals and
Zilkha's skilled guitar work. When supplemented by the Wondermore Records
musicians traveling with them to Sweetwater, Red Rooster becomes an "urban
country orchestra" with fiddle, mandolin, piano, drums, and other instruments.
Their groundbreaking CD release "Dose " captures that dual capability. "Dose"
is a two-CD package featuring the same 10 original songs on each CD, but
with each song receiving a totally unique treatment on disk one and disk two.
On the first disk, the band uses a variety of instruments and a wide range of
studio recording techniques for a complex musical effect.
On the second disk, Red Rooster plays the same original songs using only
acoustic instruments and natural sounds that can be duplicated during a stage
Red Rooster is equally at home surrounded by the Dixieland jazz clarinet,
French horns and Spanish trumpets -- or simply their own intricate Spanish
-The Sweetwater Reporter (Sweetwater, TX)
Like "punk" the term "alt-country" has become synonymous with a coarse mimicry that has little to do with the genre's original rebelliosness. Increasingly, root-influenced acts who value creativity are distancing themselves from the tag. Iron & Wine, Wilco, and Kevin Gordon are good examples of these, as are Red Rooster. The New Yorkers' latest record, "Dose ," incorporates urban elements like turntable and French horn with more customary instrumentation and themes. A two-disc set, "Dose " contains fully orchestrated and acoustic versions of its songs, both of which strive to avoid formulas that plague bands with narrower versions of Americana. The electric version of "Mexico Revisited," for example might be a Flatlanders or Whiskeytown song if it weren't for its horn intro and hip-hop-inspired drum beat.
-Nashville Scene, July 14th, 2005 (Critic's Picks)
Normally a band will release a few albums before they either want to try something new, or MTV come knocking and they record an acoustic record. Red Rooster is a completely different kind of band however. Their musical vision is to release a double album of ten new songs, with acoustic versions of the same ten songs. Now there is nothing wrong with aiming high when it comes to musical ambition, but for all of this to work the songs have got to be of an exceptionally high standard. Thankfully, the band is more than capable of delivering on that front. Singer Jay Erickson, has a fantastic baritone drawl, that at times sounds a little like Nick Cave on uppers. The arrangements are interesting, with instruments such as French horn, saxophone and clarinet thrown into the mix. Stylistically, the album varies from country to gothic pop but the songs are never dull. It is fascinating to hear the difference between the songs in their acoustic and electric formats. A good example of this is 'Cold, Cold Ground' which works brilliantly as an electrified country song but is simply breathtaking as an acapella gothic pop tune (complete with choir). In short, Red Rooster has released possibly the ultimate modern alt-country album. The electric disc has a distinctly urban feel (it even features a DJ!) and represents contemporary Americana at its best, whereas disc two features a wonderful organic sound that almost transports the listener back to the down home sounds of The Carter Family et al. The fact that Red Rooster has managed to capture the dichotomy of modern American roots music using just the same ten songs is nothing short of astounding. 'Dose' is certainly an early front runner for album of the year. (rating: 9 out of 10)
Red Rooster presents a potent mix of country, blues, folk, rock and hip-hop, studio crafted into a sly, somewhat dark sound that makes for compelling Americana. And that's merely disc one. The second disc plays it "homespun and open air" as they recreate the same ten tracks for a completely different experience. Rootsy folk-grass tunes with Dobro, fiddle, piano, banjo, acoustic bass and guitar are captured as natural sounds by microphone. The band has always been an acoustic-oriented group so the back porch folk of disc two presents nothing unusual. The idea behind disc one's urban treatment, though, was to build into and around these songs, coating them with urban paint - just enough so you could still see the hay wagon under the graffiti. Erickson possesses a low, dry drawl that invokes tales of love, loss and loneliness in places near and far, accentuated with heartbreaking harmonies through arrangements both subtle and clever...
This New York band starts with a thick slab of roots rock as its main course, then serves it
up with sides of acoustic blues, country, urban folk, and, believe it or not, even couple quick bites of electronica and hip-hop. It's a big, broad plate of goodness, so clean off your fork, tuck in your napkin, and get ready to eat.
Americana crawling under your skin feeling dusty roads and a journey on long lonesome roads.
This is just great companionship. I have always had a huge passion for the real feelings, the simplicity
and greatness of some songs made with the guitar, voice and few extra effects. This two cds is loaded with
country,blues,bluegrass and a HUGE potion of emotions. Wonderful....
rating: 8 horses!
Alternative Country should actually be alternative music from the country. Well forget it.
There's no music coming from the country anymore for a long time. For example from New York, there is Red Rooster. And right now the number
two is important for Red Rooster. It is a duo: Jay Erickson (guitar, vocals) and Nat Zilkha (dobro, guitar), who have just released their second
album called Dose (Wondermore). The record is a double record as well.
They're not pretending they have just recorded a few songs one afternoon on the porch. They've done that already. They just mixed their music
-that has its roots in "Americana"- with all kinds of urban influences, hip-hop for example. Don't stop reading now. I despise hip-hop, but Dose
turned out to be a really beautiful record. And not in the least because by doing this there is finally some kind of renewal
in the "Americana". The gentlemen from Red Rooster chose a special approach for Dose.
On disc 1 you hear 10 songs recorded with all kinds of bells and whistles (amplifiers, samples, distortion). This approach
led to a still very organic sound, somewhat like the sound of Chuck Prophet. On disc 2 we hear the same songs again, but now
in acoustic and alternative versions (and different order). Now I could discuss precisely where the differences are between disc
1 and 2 (and I know them, because I've had every song blaring since I got the album). But why should I? This is a record you have
to buy. An obligation for every self-respecting Americana-lover. You get two brilliant/ splendid records. That's why eight horses.
(translated from the Dutch)
I have absolutely nothing bad to say about the second album from Red Rooster, led by
life-long friends Jay Erickson (guitarist and singer) and Nat Zilkha (lead guitarist).
The structure of this recording is very original, to say the least. On the first disk, the
two use every modern gadget at their finger tips in the recording studio -amplifiers, distortion pedals,
computers, sampling, etc.- to explore the broad terrain between country, blues, folk, rock, and hip-hop.
On the second disk, they play through the same ten songs, but only with ingredients that Mother
Nature would approve of: their own voices, acoustic instruments, and a couple of microphones. The
result is a simply amazing album, from a pair of youngsters that approach American music with a mind
as open as Tom Waits who also does this with rock, pop, and other related musical styles. The possibilities are open.
An enormous trump card for the band is the much-older-than-it-sounds-in-reality smoky voice of Jay Erickson, which
is reminiscent of Tony Joe White's. An exceptionally strong album! (And what makes it even better, is that you
get both disks for the price of a normal CD. Take of advantage of this!)
(translated from the Flemish)