Mates, Ima give it ya straight. My first love of doom and stoner rock wares fails to hold me in the grip, occasionally. The bands that parade this banner, at times, have too much metal and not enough nuance or groove, not that I blame them. So, when I saw the new country-Americana release Earth Trips come up for review, I jumped at the chance to ‘crawl down the rabbit’s hole’, drop instant Zen and have me a wee listen. Rose City Band from Portland, Oregon in the USA is the offspring of main man Ripley Johnson, guitarist of Wooden Shjips and an outfit called Moon Duo. I looped the 2018 Wooden Shjips offering V. repeatedly between my sonic receptor units; it’s an exquisite mix of psychedaelia and spacey rock.
Opening tune Silver Roses wheels out a road trip lyric – ‘blue lights on the way, down the freeway to LA’ – then idles on at a leisurely and pleasurable non-Los Angeles pace backed by guest Barry Walker’s plaintive pedal steel guitar – come hither, indeed. In The Rain continues in the cascading peace-fall of Jesus and Mary Chainvocals – wow, that is cool – although Ripley’s soothing vocal counterpoint is not hinged onferocious blasting Marshall amps like Jim Reid’s were.
Lonely Places invokes the great American expanse and does the 2-step smartly, again showcasing decumbent pedal steel wail and managing a country and western pulse, as does the inspiriting Ramblin’ With The Day, a song that shows up when you look for the dictionary definition of ‘contented’. My favourite tune, track seven, Rabbit is like a lazy, looping inflatable inner-tube ride down the Lewis River, one hand wrapped around a bottle of Herradura Silver while the peyote blossoms in your forehead.
Earth Trips is a languid and loverly afternoon music soirée of six-string sun and pedal steel moon with Ripley Johnson’s soothing tenor voice…
These songs were recorded primarily at Ripley Johnson’s home in Portland and mixed by Cooper Crain (Bitchin’ Bajas, Cave). Ripley describes the arrangements this way; ‘I was trying to capture that feeling when you take psychedelics and they just start coming on – maybe objects start buzzing in the edges of your vision, you start seeing slight trails, maybe the characteristics of sound change subtly. But you’re not fully tripping yet. Cooper got the idea right away and his mix really captures that feeling.’ Johnson’s lifting guitar levitates on a Grateful Dead fine line between country and cosmic, kicking back in space with song melodies streaming into long shadow reverb and shimmering solos tanned by the Oregon summer sun.
Earth Trips almost recalls the mescal hang-time of Richie Lee’s intimate vocals in Acetone, without the crush of a band being physically restrained. The Jesus and Mary Chainvocal reference is bang-on; I also hear touches of King Buffalo without the rock snot and astral Floyd boogie. Earth Trips is a languid and loverly afternoon music soirée of six-string sun and pedal steel moon with Ripley Johnson’s soothing tenor voice unhurried to depart the astral vibes. This is Good Stuff, like chicken soup for yer ears. And so it is, my Brothers and Sisters.
Scribed by: Dani Bandolier