Band: Rob Larkin & The Wayward Ones
Album: Dogwood Roots
Rob Larkin and his Wayward Ones (Ethan Yeager and Curren McDowell) are a Los Angeles based "roots" rock/soul band that just recently released their full length album "Dogwood Roots" with the Spectra label on December 24th of last year. A "roots" band plays music that tends to draw from traditional styles of folk, blues, and country; and welds all these styles together with the help of warm and rustic instrumentation to get a sound that is very nostalgic and timeless. Rob Larkin & The Wayward Ones are quite active in the California area, but have yet to expand from the west coast; only occasionally playing in Oregon and Washington. However, the band has been getting national attention. Their song "Dogwood" won the Americana category in the 2011 "Show Me The Music" contest; and their song "Sister Soul" was in the movie "Wingman, Inc."; which featured stars Daniele Watts from "Django Unchained" and Reid Ewing from "Modern Family". Rob Larkin & The Wayward Ones is a band that has certainly been achieving moderate levels of success, especially in the California area.
"Dogwood Roots" is a very uniform album; the band was targeting a very specific sound and was able to achieve that sound and the moods that come along with it throughout the entire album. There is a lot of very classic, rich, buzzy old Hammond organ, some great Chicago blues inspired harmonica, as well as a pure and clean guitar sound with that familiar country twang that can only come from Fender single coil pickups. Most of the songs on this album are lazy, warm, down home grooves with plenty of bluesy flavor and those country/folk "roots" that the band puts good emphasis on. The first track "Dogwood" fits this formula to a T. Rob Larkin's voice is very smooth and airy, and floats over the piano, organ, and harmonica to create a very rustic, yet classic and powerful sounding piece. Rob Larkin & The Wayward Ones are very similar musically to folk rock outfit The Band, the instrumentation is quite similar; with its deeply traditional inspired, warm, rich, and rootsy flavor. Rob Larkin's voice is also reminiscent of Levon Helm; who possessed a voice of genuine smoothness yet also with a sense of profound vitality. Think delicate power, or controlled aggression. As long as were talking about Levon Helm, some may also find the drums to be similar to his style of drumming as well, maybe its just the tone of the drums, but to me this album is really reminiscent of some of the old work by The Band back in the late sixties and early seventies. The guitar on this album usually consists of warm and mellow acoustic riffs but also great country/blues/rock sounding electric riffs and solos. The best example of some great guitar playing is my favorite song on this album, "It Spills Out." Rob Larkin is throwing in little guitar parts throughout the song, but at about 2:15 there is this really cool wah solo that sounds really bright and twangy. It is probably the most rock n' roll moment in the entire album, and reminds me a lot of another wah solo from a great classic rock band called Snail. Snail's music is actually a lot like Rob Larkin & The Wayward Ones; most people have probably already heard of Levon Helm and The Band, but not many have heard of Bob O'Neill and Snail, a band that has been active since the sixties and seventies. If you like Rob Larkin & The Wayward Ones, you should definitely check out Snail. http://www.theoriginalsnail.com/Index.html.
As was said before, this is a very uniform album. As much as that can be a good thing, it can also be a not so good thing. A lot of the songs on this album sound so similar that things get a little stale. The organ plays chord progressions that are all quite alike and Rob Larkin's voice never really deviates from a very soft and smooth tone. The main point is that there really aren't many times in this album where things pick up, or the mood changes. Granted, that may not be the style of music Rob Larkin & The Wayward Ones play, but in all sense of honesty, I got a little bored after a while. I know that music like this puts a premium on the lyrics, and I did find the lyrics to be quite pleasing and creative, but I just felt that at times the instrumentation, although well executed, did not provide an adequate backdrop for the lyrics.
I think what Rob Larkin & The Wayward Ones are doing is wonderful. I highly respect them to be a band that plays real music inspired by legends that we all look up to like Muddy Waters, Levon Helm, and Howlin' Wolf. In this age of synthesizers and auto tune, it is obvious that a lot of music today is lacking roots; there is less soul, less blood, sweat, and tears worked into the recordings. Rob Larkin & The Wayward Ones are defenders of what makes our music sound whole, what makes it pure, and what makes it beautiful. They don't hide behind anything, no special effects or other nonsense here, and they portray themselves honestly. There music reminds me of all those home videos shot with 9mm cameras in faded colors back in the 60's and 70's. Images of bright, happy, innocent childhood and endless all-American summers that most aging adults now recall with a sense of joy. One of the greatest things about music is how powerful and pure such a simple song can be.
Score – 7/10
Owen Matheson edited by Heather Savage.
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