This hard-to-classify group is often tagged with the jam-band moniker. But that's not half the story. RWB combines the best of America's genres to invent their own. They lay bluegrass licks over jazz motifs. They rock out, then melt into bluesy ballads. They synchronize and harmonize, and just when you think you know where they're going, they take an unpredictable turn.
The band's recently released second album, Radio Wasteland, is as ear-catching and intriguing as the first -- with a charismatic new cast of players. The idea was to present songs with a spontaneous vibe. And it's in the live context that the band truly shines.
Lead singer/songwriter Rich Whiteley provides textural interplay on rhythm guitar. Lead guitarist John Zias, who successfully auditioned for Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh's project (Phil & Friends), lends his articulate, soulful improvisational chops, especially in live performance. Bassist T.J. Glowacki (SW Florida Symphony) brings considerable classical expertise and smoothly shifts the harmonic floor. And Dan DeGregory, who backed Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Bo Diddley and blues legend Rock Bottom, plays melodic linear and groove-oriented drum figures and sings backing vocals. Chris Kelley adds rhythmic dimension on percussion.
Like Whiteley's first album, A Dog or a Bicycle, Radio Wasteland was produced by Zen Recording's Steve Connelly (Ronny Elliott & the Nationals, Butch Ryan, Shotgun Wedding, Jimmy Griswold). Connelly, who toured with The Byrds' Roger McGuinn, lends his pedal steel prowess to two tracks on the latest release.
Whiteley's lyrics range from social satire to poignant storytelling. Some songs hit you over the head -- concise and catchy, the kind that stick in your soul. Others dive into uncharted territory, drawing you into deep tangles, then unravelling into epic soundscapes.
Most of Whiteley's tunes are tightly produced -- short and sweet. But in the live context those same songs might foray into 20-minute montages. No two concerts sound alike. Each night is a new adventure.
Like many improvisational rock bands before them, the Rich Whiteley Band encourages audio recording at their live shows. So it's no wonder that "tapers" have already created a grassroots distribution network, spreading the band's music along the East Coast.
Check out the artist's website:
1. Radio Wasteland
2. Mama Says
3. Stella Please
4. Guy on a Bench
5. Restless One
7. Wolf From the Door
8. False Advertising
9. Walkin' at Night
10. Better Day
11. Old Rock-n-Rollers