The word on the Rosewood Thieves’ music is that it recalls the Band and Bob Dylan and other similar artists. That rumor is corroborated by the title of the Thieves’ debut EP, From the Decker House, which is obviously gunning for Music from Big Pink territory, and the fact that the group spent a month and a half slumming in a farmhouse in upstate New York. (I don’t know if it’s the rickety, dust-bowl looking place on the cover, but let’s hope not.)
So you’d be forgiven for expecting something along the lines of Up the Country by the Sixth Great Lake, vast swaths of which could pass for the work of a Band cover band. (Suggested name for such an endeavor: the Cover Band; please kindly forward any royalties.) In fact, From the Decker House is the quintessential L.A. record. It was recorded there by honorary Pernice Brother Thom Monahan and sounds absolutely like the work of a professional. Twenty-year-old singer Erick Jordan’s vocals are multi-tracked, the rhythms are tight, and a cursory scan of the credit reveals a slew of performances by session guys, including Bob “Conjunction Junction” Dorough (piano) and Mike Dally of Whiskeytown (pedal steel).
The real story here may be the debut of Jordan who, I will reiterate, is a mere twenty years old. His sweetly textured voice is one part Lennon and one part Bolan, and his songs betray the influence of both (though I wonder if the Bolan influence is, in this case, actually more of a Devendra Banhart influence). It must be noted that four of the six songs were co-written by the mysterious Samuel Markus, a former band members who I’m hoping isn’t a professional songwriter.
Whatever the songs’ origins, this is weirdly impressive for a debut EP. Rolling opener “Los Angeles,” which not only sounds like prime Lennon but references his lyrics (something about a “bird that flew”) is astonishingly hooky and arguably better than some of the stuff that actually made it on to some of Lennon’s mid-1970s albums. In “Back Home to Harlem” and “Diamond Ring,” young Jordan spits some Lennon venom (from the former: “So get your shit together/ And go back home to Harlem”). And the music moves; I don’t know if it’s the actual band members or the session guys, and I don’t know how much I care, really. (Would you trade in the session-played “Mr. Tambourine Man” for a clunkier version just to have Mike Clarke on drums? Neither would I.)
The best song, “Doctor,” sounds like Bolan — or, you know, Banhart — channeling Highway 61 Revisited-era Dylan, but Jordan makes it his own, singing about shit like being “stuck on the West Side Highway” like a man five or ten years his senior — or at least someone old enough to get a drink at a bar. How much it hearkens back to Dylan or the Band is debatable and, ultimately, irrelevant. The polish and mysterious songwriting credit notwithstanding, this is good stuff.
Label: http://www.v2music.com/Audio: http://myspace.com/therosewoodthieves