Essential New Music: Rose City Band’s “Garden Party”

Audiologists and environmentalists will unite to implore you not to drive the highway with your windows down. The drag will drive up your gas consumption, and the steady engine noise will sand down your hearing. But sometimes, you just want to feel like you’re flying down the road, with your troubles fading in the rearview mirror and good times on the horizon. That’s one of the times you’ll want to pop Garden Party in the player.

The streamlined blend of liquid pedal-steel-guitar licks, unobtrusively rollicking keyboards and propulsive beats on the fourth album from Rose City Band imparts an air of wind-buffeted, carefree abandon while doing no harm. Bandleader Ripley Johnson (also of Moon Duo and Wooden Shjips) seems to hover over the mile-gulping grooves, peeling off cheery guitar solos and imparting optimistic sentiments in a calming croon. This music wears its influences proudly; if you always wanted to hear the Grateful Dead set Buck Owens to a motorik beat, Rose City Band is here to give you what you want.

Mind you, the “Band” part is partly illusory, since Johnson plays the guitar, bass and some of the keyboards by himself, but that just goes to show that he knows what he’s doing. It takes work to make something that goes down so as easy as Garden Party.

—Bill Meyer