The popularity of the neo-hippie H.O.R.D.E. caravan gave rise to Dave Matthews and Blues Traveler, but those two are Dylan and the Dead in comparison to Pittsburgh’s Rusted Root. The seven-person troupe of raggle-taggle patchouli-soaked minstrels is like a multi-culti Cowsills sharing a commune with 10,000 Maniacs and a percussion collective. The lineup includes three — count ’em — three drummers, not to mention flute, guitar, bass, banjo, marimba and “on and off planet energies, etc. and endless possibilities.” Like, wow, man!
Despite the assistance of assorted sprites and faeries, Rusted Root’s rhythmic world music-influenced drivel is better suited for a Pringles commercial than a tribal gathering. The self-produced indie debut, Cruel Sun, was a success on the Northeastern college frathouse circuit, and so the inevitable major-label release, When I Woke (produced by Bill Bottrell, of Sheryl Crow fame), soon followed. A veritable cacophony of cockamamie claptrap, When I Woke is the type of record that thirtysomething middle-management types listen to and think they’re hip because they’ve finally put away their Eric Clapton Unplugged CD and are getting into “alternative rock.” In a buttclenching caterwaul, guru/guitarist Michael Glabicki spouts specious new age gobbledygook about peace, love and the environment (with about as much impact as a “Save the Whales” bumper sticker on the back of a BMW) over sticky-sweet drumboogie jams with titles like “Beautiful People,” “Back to the Earth” and “Infinite Tamboura.” While it’s one thing to have a cult following in Pittsburgh, Rusted Root somehow scored a national hit with the abysmal “Send Me on My Way,” notable only for its yodeling campfire chorus.