Its been no secret around here that the sophomore LP from Rose City Band has hit hard. Expanding on the debut’s humble roots in private press psych, country, and Americana, the second offering from Ripley Johnson’s solo outfit refines his vision and takes a light dusting to the dollar-bin veneer. The scrub up doesn’t degrade the charms though, and the more refined RCB doesn’t lose a single ounce of the endearing value of Rip’s sound. Largely, RCB leans further into the streaked skies of Cosmic Country this time around, with a good dose of twang and ramble seeping into the strings underneath a blanket of heat-wave warble that seals in the saunter. Johnson forgoes a long psychedelic excursion like the debut’s “Fear Song,” this time around, instead focussing on set of songs that build to a simmer with just enough time to froth without foaming over. I
ts a tighter record, but that doesn’t mean he’s not interested in letting those liquid silver guitar lines shine. The hallmark sound of lysergic licks still graces the record, leaving Johnson’s unique stamp on it. While still paying homage to his original crop of past masters — Relatively Clean Rivers, Jim Sullivan, KAK, and Curt Newbury, — the vibes on Summerlong seem to be swinging full well into Western nodes of The First National Band, Timbercreek, or Country Funk. The shift is subtle but fits Ripley well. His honey n’ dust croon lays low like a fog over the horizons of these songs, which amble slow and choogle slightly less than he has in the past, but what they give up in rollick they make up in melt. Though, as the album wafts into its second half, the temperature heats up just a bit and the breeze dies down.
“Morning Light” picks up the pace, but not the urgency, still laying back into sunshine ease, but “Reno Shuffle” lets the night in and a bit of heat lightning, hinting at a bit of danger in the distance. For the most part it lounges in languid moments and spot-on shimmer. The album is a perfect companion to hazy summer days as they turn into warm summer nights. There’s been a wealth of entries to the Cosmic Americana canon over the last few years and this one’s standing near the top. While it was on constant rotation here, its possible that the debut from Rose City Band got lost among the releases last year. Hoping that same fate doesn’t befall this, because its definitely edging its way towards the top of the list of albums for 2020. Don’t sleep on this one.
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