Full Head of Steam, the new album from Brooklyn-based folk/roots band Roosevelt Dime flavors its ‘just plain folks’ vibe with a heavy hand of New Orleans spice, heavy enough to get even casual listeners up on their feet and rocking. In an interview with No Depression, Dime members Andrew Green and Eben Pariser explain what the band aims for: “We were trying to create a sound that was full of energy and infectious.” If that’s the aim, Full Head of Steam hits the bull’s eye.
Their music, whether original composition or traditional cover, is nothing if not infectious. Their lyrics may at times seem a bit awkward, but the catchy music played with joyful abandon goes a long way in making up for anything lacking. And in the end, this a band that hooks you.
Green plays banjo and guitar, while Pariser is on bass and bucket bass. Both handle lead vocals. Drummer Tony Montalbano and Seth Paris on clarinet and saxophones round out the basic quartet. They are joined on individual tracks by a number of guest artists.
The album’s basic sensibility is clear from the first two songs. An almost stripped down “Oh To Be,” a Green Pariser collaboration with a retro folk vibe, opens the album. It’s followed by a real New Orleans rocker in Pariser’s “Natchl Culmination,” with some down-low horn playing from Paris and guest trumpeter Bruce Harris. “Down on Your Luck,” a Pariser tune originally recorded for an earlier album but not released, is done here as a duet with Molly Venter.
Green’s “Calvary,” inspired by a cemetery he passes while driving on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, has a surprisingly “infectious” (to use their term) chorus, given the subject. A jazzy arrangement of “I Want Mo!” moves back to Dixie with some very intense work from the horns once again, along with some effective background vocals. “Now There’s You” starts with an introduction reminiscent of a rhythm and blues ballad from back in the ’50s, leading to what they call a “doo-wop vibe” in the liner notes. “Crazy Bout You,” which gets a reprise at the end of the set, is an old-fashioned romp made for smiles.
The traditional songs include “Cocaine Habit Blues,” “Deep Elem Blues” and a sweet “totally” live take of the classic “St. James Infirmary.” Paris contributes some fine clarinet highlights and Harris adds some killer work on the trumpet. It is a great song handled with the respect it deserves.
Although the CD isn’t scheduled for release until the beginning of March, the digital release is January 14.