is an organism that has a history and has different meanings to
many different people," says Rusted Root lead vocalist-guitarist-songwriter
Michael Glabicki. "Those people attach themselves to this
organism and because of that, it's a ritual, a way to jointly
It's funny; the same can be said for Rusted
The Pittsburgh sextet evolved from a single
cellæGlabickiæinto a musical organism of quintessential
essence, monumental substance and vast appeal. Its fourth record,
Welcome To My Party, is a further, astonishing progression;
a distillation of chops and songwriting finesse revealing a distinct
Produced by Bill Bottrell (Tom Petty, Sheryl
Crow and Rusted's platinum When I Woke), Welcome…
features eight compositions from Glabicki, one each from vocalists
Liz Berlin and recent reenlistment Jenn Wertz, and opens with
the funky, percolating "Union 7," the first ever 50-50
lyrical collab between Wertz and Glabicki. These songs capture
the essence of a band that is truly a single, thriving organism.
And what is that essence? After a long pause,
Glabicki says, "For me, it really comes down to the songs.
At this stage of the game, I knew some faults we had in the past.
It was a conscious decision to make sure the songs were kept in
the forefront and that the band could still do what they do in
and around those songs at the right moment."
Rusted Root has songs. It was evident from
the beginning with When I Woke's smash single "Send
Me On My Way," and is stunningly clear with Welcome….
From the title track, a pinnacle of pop balladry, to Berlin’s
sunny, reggae-inflected "Too Much;" the shimmering Saturday
afternoon vibe of "Hands Are Law;" Wertz's sexy, sinewy
rave-up, "Weave;" and the supple Glabicki-Wertz duet
"Blue Diamonds," Rusted Root has created a true representation
of their every facet.
"Diamonds," is especially remarkable,
as it pertains to an accident from Glabicki's childhood. "When
I was two-and-a-half years old I was hit by a car and in my unconsciousness,
I met this sort of being and she’s been by me ever since.
We’d sort of have that kind of a deal where she’s
gonna stick around. It's kind of a love song about that. A love
song about an angel."
Welcome…differs from other Rusted
records in that it lacks a drum instrumental. Instead, there is
"People Of My Village," a thumping, techno-tinged track
that nevertheless showcases drummer Jim Donovan’s talents
(he being a renowned drum clinician and solo artist), including
newly acquired computer skills. "I had just started to use
my computer as a brand new instrument and it opened me up to a
zillion rhythmic possibilities I could have never played on my
own. The song is tremendous. It relates to everything we've done
in the past but sounds new. That’s why I love playing with
this band. It’s always about pushing boundaries and not
putting ourselves in a box."
To that end, Rusted Root approached production
differently. Bottrell came in after a four-month preproduction
period and spent the first week observing. Says Glabicki, "We
had developed our own recording skills and methods, so he just
sat in and watched how we worked, which I thought showed his wisdom
and enthusiasm. He was willing to feed our process and we brought
out things in each other that I think we are all thankful for."
"Root's studio skills have sharpened considerably
since I last produced them," says Bottrell. "What has
remained unchanged is their live show. Now they're unstoppable."
Welcome to My Party comes after a
year off, which the band members used to explore other creative
vectors. "We'd reached a point in our creativity where it
was just time to examine other musical avenues," reveals
Glabicki. "It was a little scary at first; kind of intriguing.
We had never done it."
When the band reconnected, heads were clear
and there was an electric sense of renewal. "I'd found some
new songs and I knew I wanted to do a majority of them with the
band," he says. "We just all got together and started
jamming and it inspired me to take certain songs in different
directions." He pauses, then elaborates, "Sometimes
when you're having…in a song, an emotion, your friends can
show you different ways of expressing it."
But one thingæa person, ratheræwas
missing. He explains: "I really wanted and perhaps, even
needed, Jenn to come back." Wertz had left Rusted Root after
the release of When I Woke, but continued her songwriting
and fronted several solo projects. She and Glabicki began hanging
out together again, drinking and talking music, bouncing ideas
off each other, and he asked her to return.
"We talked about it a lot," she says,
"in terms of ‘let's make it a lot of fun and do it
right this time.’ We made a pact to do that." Wertz
joined the band for one show in summer 2000 and says it "just
felt really great." The audience welcomed her warmly and
one show flowed into an album.
Glabicki founded Rusted Root upon returning
from a post-high school trip to South America in 1988. After a
false start with one group of musicians, he called Berlin, an
old friend with whom he'd collaborated previously, and asked her
to sing with him. Through her came drummer Donovan, with whom
she’d taken an African drumming classæthis being a
prerequisite Glabicki had established. Donovan recruited Norman,
another classmate, to play guitar (he’d later switch to
bass guitar, helping shape Rusted Root's rhythm-centric sound).
A year later, multi-instrumentalist, visual artist and bicycle
messenger John Buynak and vocalist Jenn Wertz, originally hired
to photograph the group, signed on. Buynak’s distinctive
artwork would give Rusted Root a strong visual image.
Rusted Root would adopt a hard-touring way,
their polyrhythmic multiculti rock and soul picking up devotees
like a junkyard magnet as they swept across the nation. In 1990,
they self-released a CD, Cruel Sun. The disc attracted
Mercury Records which signed the band and released When I
Woke (1994). Two more records (Remember in 1996
and the self-titled third in 1998), three EPs (Evil Ways,
Live, and Airplane), a home video (Rusted
Root Live) and miscellaneous film and TV soundtrack credits
(Twister, Mathilda, Home For the Holidays,
Party of Five, Homicide and the upcoming animated
feature, Ice Age) followed. Welcome To My Party
is the icing.
"It was a conscious effort to take our time
and not let anything interfere with that process," says Glabicki.
"We made sure that every element of the songs and the music
were well maintained and brought into the spotlight." Norman
sums up it up well: "Rusted Root has always been a beautiful
collaborative effort all around. It's a pleasure just to create