Remember how great The Band's Music From Big Pink is? In case you've forgotten, the first track off The Rustlanders' new album instantly reminds you, from the multi-part vocal harmonies and stinging guitar leads to the chord progression that echoes "The Weight." Even the group's shaggy, homegrown appearance conjures up Robbie Robertson & Co. circa 1968.
From there, The Rustlanders set out to remind you of how good Tom Petty is. "La Conchita" is simply lovely, a melancholy, harmonica-heavy ramblin' song, with echoes of Petty's "Time to Move On." Any country-rock group would be stoked to have a song this evocative and so well arranged and played.
Not a bad start for a group of musicians who only recently fell in together. Chris Rattie, Corry Drake, Jason McIntrye and Junior Tutwiler crossed paths in State College until, in 2004, they gelled into The Rustlanders. Eventually they found themselves recording in earthy 3-D at Pittsburgh's Treelady Studios with a variety of guests filling in pedal steel, organ and other touches.
Much of the album revolves around the influences of The Band and Petty, with bits of the Flying Burrito Brothers and perhaps Steve Earle thrown in for good measure. My only real critique of this thoughtful, well-crafted album is that it's a bit heavy on the slow country ballads, songs like "High Lonesome Sound." This style doesn't sound quite as natural as the more rock-oriented songs, and the drawling vocals -- and the sentiments -- begin to sound a bit forced.
That said, if The Rustlanders are as good live as on their CD, they're on to something a lot of people are gonna want to hear.
The Rustlanders CD Release with The Pawnbrokers. 9:30 p.m. Fri., Sept. 14. Thunderbird Café, 4023 Butler St., Lawrenceville. 412-682-0177 or www.thunderbird.net