One of the writers I have admired my entire life is John Steinbeck. More than any other writer he explained the dust bowl migration to California, the immigrant experience, and the affectation of the abundance of people settling into homesteads after the Depression. You could say he was at the forefront of roots writing. It’s not an actual literary designation, but really it should be. Steinbeck really courted that blue collar, hard-working settler than with nothing but the clothes on his back sought a better life.
Much like Steinbeck roots rockers speak of those Salt-of-the-Earth times. They speak of struggles and converge in the center of blues, country and folk, borrowing bits from every piece. Creedence Clearwater Revival did this and took roots to an astronomical level, but then The Band came along and redefined roots. They collected this immense group of phenomenal musicians would lead to a generation’s worth of copy cats and admirers. One of the latter is Sassparilla, a name that evokes cowboys not being able to handle their liquor. Despite that connotation what we have is a group combining aspects of that sound that made the Band so well loved.
We’ve seen this working lately though, haven’t we? I mean look at Old Crow Medicine Show and see their success with a model that wouldn’t have worked even five years ago. The album is called Magpie, and evokes such emotion that it does something that not a lot of music does these days. It reminds us about humanity. It’s utterly brilliant simplicity, its complex harmonies, the echoes in the vocals and the way it simply flows through vocals that make you want to drink shots of whiskey while crying of a forlornness that only comes from lost love and past mistakes.
It howls like a wind through a valley and like a Steinbeck novel makes you feel the pain of a man that is at his wits end. This is an album that is part of a group that is bringing roots back to the forefront, a revolutionary sign of wonderful things to come. There is a distinct Irish immigrant flare about it as well, especially in “All the Way In” which has a sound reminiscent of the Pogues and Charlie Daniels. Perhaps, Old Crow Medicine Show was the spark that was needed to bring roots back to the mainstream, but when all is said and done it may be Sassparilla that creates the explosion to make the fire burn out of control.
Download “Threadbare” the new single from Magpie here: