UPDATE: Thanks to an alert reader who directed us to Rose Hill Drive's Facebook page, we now know that Americana will be released July 12.
I was maybe two cans into the mystery beer at the Sundown Saloon at Rose Hill Drive's listening party when I finally relaxed. The band's new album, Americana, announced Friday, is good. Really good, perhaps even better than their previous two. It's the first album RHD has produced with bass player Jimmy Stofer in the mix, and though it's still hard to wrap my head around Rose Hill Drive as a two-guitar quartet and not a power trio, I'm happy (and relieved) to tentatively say that, based what I heard at the Downer, the album is a step forward for the band, not a lateral or backwards one.
I was worried. The original trio, guitarist Daniel Sproul, guitarist-singer Jacob Sproul and drummer Nate Barnes, all grew up in Boulder, and for almost two years, Boulder's best homegrown rock band seemed on the verge of collapse. The band, after releasing two albums and seemingly gathering the momentum necessary to launch a serious career, abruptly went on an indefinite hiatus in January 2009. They ended the hiatus in June 2010 with a new member, Stofer, and began writing what will be their next album. An 18-month "hiatus" is rarely something a band comes back from unscathed, especially when the record deal's up and the momentum is waning.
Here's what Jacob Sproul told me last year:
"When we first, first, began as a three-piece, we were writing to sound like music that we listened to, because we loved it, and that was anything from Led Zeppelin to the Foo Fighters to the White Stripes to the Strokes. We were just digging on anything that was old rock, or new rock. What became a problem for us was trying to sound like some of the modern things that we enjoy, because of the styles we were creating … were turning more towards the old classic rock, just because we were a three-piece and it sounded like we could do that. And it was fun to do that, but it became a very stale type of feeling, not only because we began as being super-creative and kind of fell back on trying to sound like something that had been popular before, but we were also looking for more musically, just a wider soundscape."
But now, Rose Hill Drive sounds resilient. Major labels be damned; they created their own and released the album themselves. And it sounds like it could be great. We'll have to wait and see.
I can't say a lot more about the album, except that I really dug the second track, since the speakers at the Downer are better suited to loud bar music than giving an album a serious listen. The band should announce complete details, including a release date, next week. But I'd say the album sounds more modern, less classic-rock. I heard less Grand Funk Railroad and more Jack White, which is no surprise given the fact the the band covered the White Stripes' Elephant last December. There were a few ballads, a couple heavy-riffed rockers. It's an album worth getting excited about. I'll post more information when it becomes available.