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Rusted Root not afraid to go global on new record

| Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, 8:57 p.m.
Rusted Root
Rusted Root

Rusted they ain't.

On their new release, “The Movement,” Rusted Root bursts out of the gate sounding like a young, hungry band, not a veteran outfit that's spent 20 years touring, recording and weathering changing music trends.

“I think touring has a lot to do with it,” says vocalist/percussionist Liz Berlin. “Playing the music live is kind of like a bonding thing for us. It's also taking time off and doing other things and having a balance to your life.”

She and bassist Patrick Norman are “somewhere in Utah,” working on the video for “Monkey Pants,” the leadoff track on the album.

“The Movement,” which is set for release Tuesday, heralds a return to concise songcraft after previous, more-experimental outings for the Pittsburgh unit. Lead singer, guitarist and songwriter Michael Glabicki journeys to distant points on the map — India, Africa and Brazil — while staying within the bounds of conventional pop-song format.

“It's important to experiment, just because you can stretch your boundaries,” Norman says. “You can find places you've never been before creatively, but it's always best to rein it back in.”

Rusted Root's 1992 debut “Cruel Sun” stood out like a gaudy tropical bird against the grunge-saturated musical landscape. The band's propulsive worldbeat poly-rhythms and lived-in, communal hippie vibe quickly crossed international boundaries to fans on other continents. Their major- label release, “When I Woke,” went platinum and vaulted them, briefly, into the rock-star stratosphere.

They've sold more than 3 million records and toured with Santana, the Dave Matthews Band and Jimmy Page and Robert Plant on their 1995 “Unledded” tour. They've stuck around long enough to see the beat they helped popularize taken to the bank by bands like Vampire Weekend.

“I think it's interesting that those sounds and influences are actually making it into alternative radio,” Berlin says. “Back in our day, we had a hard time getting to triple A (adult album alternative), let alone Top 40. I think it's awesome, as well. It's the kind of things that really move us and drive us — acoustic guitar and Latin and African rhythms.”

“It's all world music anyway,” Norman says. “I think the more influences that come into rock ‘n' roll, the better the genre.”

Both Berlin and Norman are keen to reconnect with their fans in Pittsburgh. They play Nov. 10 at the Palace Theatre in Greensburg and Dec. 21 at the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland.

“The Movement” is a crowd-sourced effort, financed partly by fans.

“We recorded it independently,” Berlin says. “Money's kind of tight now all around, with the economy. We put together a fan-funding campaign on our website similar to Kickstarter. We called it ‘Fortunate Freaks Unite' after one of our songs. We had friends and family and fans from all over the world donate to help us record the album. We feel really supported.”

Details: www.rustedroot.com

William Loeffler is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at wloeffler@tribweb.com or 412-320-7986.

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