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MUSIC REVIEW

Welcome to My Party

Rap Music With A Melody

By Allison Lewis

STAFF WRITER

Rusted Root

Welcome to My Party

Island Records

Released April 9, 2002

You may or may not have heard of Rusted Root. They’re an almost indescribable band that has developed a huge fan base of mostly college kids. They’ve been compared to Dave Matthews Band and described as indie, worldly, and organic. Comparisons aside, Rusted Root does its own thing.

Rusted Root’s members are Mike Glabicki (lead vocalist, guitarist, songwriter), Liz Berlin (vocalist, songwriter), Jim Donovan (drummer, percussionist), Patrick Norman (guitarist, bassist), Jenn Wertz (vocalist, songwriter), and John Buynek (multi-instrumentalist, vocalist). Their album When I Woke (1994) featured the hit song “Send Me On My Way,” and went platinum in 1996. Now they’ve teamed up with producer Jim Bottrell (Sheryl Crow, Shelby Lynne) to create Welcome to My Party, an intricate and awesome album. I’ll admit it; I’ve developed an addiction to it.

“Union 7,” the first song on the album, has rock guitar, a Caribbean drum beat, a rough and twangy lead male voice, and two women crooning in sexually charged voices. It sounds like some drunken karaoke night at the hippest club on the strip, or long-haired twenty-somethings rocking out in a bar. It sounds like foreplay.

Rusted Root’s songs combine several different styles: African, Latin, Blues, and rock, to name a few. Welcome to My Party features an electric guitar and computer sounds, in contrast to the acoustic sound of earlier albums. The band feels these additions make this album stand out from their others. Mike Glabicki takes the lead; his strong voice vibrates, sounds whiny at times, but mostly, he just sounds sexy, in a lots-of-facial-hair way. The rest of the band gels, grooves, and rocks, as their strong instruments snap together like a puzzle. The end result is manic and filled with energy. African-influenced percussion gives it a characteristic, hypnotic vibe. It’s hip-hop for white people.

Some songs sound like drugged-out parties on deserted islands covered with islanders chanting and drumming Calypso beats, and some sound like a hayride through green country grass, on a wagon with squeaky wheels. “Blue Diamonds” is a love ballad sung by Glabicki and Wertz, who say it’s their favorite song to perform live. It isn’t a delicate love song; instead, it’s rough and honest, two strong and solid voices trying to overpower each other. But, like the rest of Welcome to My Party, this off-the-beaten-path technique makes “Blue Diamond” exquisite, beautiful, and crazy.

Welcome to My Party is passionately uninhibited, percussive, and loosely layered. The words don’t always make sense, and, if they do, they’re nothing new -- just sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll set to a vibe. But the words don’t matter; the meaning is in the music.

Welcome to My Party is rap music with a melody. It’s fresh and cool, and won’t ever go out of style. You’ll be hooked. You’ll keep listening. You’ll wanna put on a hula skirt and dance barefoot.