Album concept still critical to Rusted Root's self-expression
If you measure them by albums sold, Rusted Root might be the most successful Pittsburgh-based rock band of all time, having sold about 3 million or so since they began.
Nowadays, “the album” isn't as all-important as it was in the days when listeners actually paid for music. In these file-sharing days, some think the format has lost its relevance entirely.
Rusted Root — who perform New Year's Eve at the Rex Theater — isn't among them.
“It's extremely important to us,” songwriter-singer-guitarist Michael Glabicki says. “It's our medium, our way of expressing ourselves. I can't see breaking things up into singles like that. It gets us fans who really believe in us, as opposed to those who say, ‘Eh, I just like that song.' ”
The band is staying busy on the road with last year's album, “The Movement,” which expands the band's complex, yet upbeat, all-over-the-map rhythmic signature to include elements like calypso and Afro-pop.
Still, it's nothing that the fans of 1994's breakthrough, “When I Woke,” wouldn't recognize.
The drum-powered positivity is still there, as is the band's underrated ear for crafting memorable pop hooks. Mere instrumental virtuosity isn't what got “Send Me on My Way” into movies, TV shows and commercials (“Ice Age,” “Charmed,” “New Girl” and others), after all.
Another thing Rusted Root has no plans to change is their deep roots in the verdant hills and valleys of Pittsburgh.
“It's cheaper, and that's a good thing for artists,” Glabicki says. “I don't think we could have done it living in New York or L.A., or something.
“Pittsburgh's got a really wonderful energy to it. It's a warm, loving energy — and a very cultural area, too.
“For us, I think we soaked a lot of that into our music.”
Rusted Root's remarkable endurance — 23-years-plus as a band — is a tribute to the strength of its original vision, which hasn't changed.
“In many ways, it's the same vision, and in some ways, we have a lot more,” Glabicki says.
“I think that's through the experience of playing so much. I think we've explored a lot on the albums, and fallen short a bit, but that's helped us figure out what we could and couldn't do. We know a lot more now.
“I don't know where it's all going, but in the end it's all about the live show. Who can play live and who can't — it's got to come down to that at some point.”
After the New Year's Eve show, Rusted Root will be back on tour with Donna the Buffalo in January.
Michael Machosky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7901.