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Saturday Pick: The Rosewood Thieves

New York quintet infuses Classic Rock with vitality

By Ryan McLendon · September 22nd, 2009 · MPMF
“Classic Rock” is a tough label for a band to endure. It implies all music under this subcategory of mainstream Rock is defined by antique characteristics, making it somehow irrelevant to the modern iTunes lexicon.

Granted, most musicians burdened with “Classic Rock” status rarely release new albums (and when they do, it serves to make them more irrelevant, i.e. Blondie’s No Exit). But “Classic Rock” also conversely serves to elevate a band’s status to a Mt. Olympus level of grandeur and often lumps truly great musicians, such as The Beatles, with lesser beings, like Foghat.

Yet works of “Classic Rock” often inspire legions of young bandlings that hang on their idols’ every note. Young musicians can retool and give new life to hallowed masterpieces of Rock & Roll, doubling their shelf lives in the age of the MP3.

Take The Rosewood Thieves, for example. The New York quintet — folksy, funky and richly educated in Rock classics — manages to wield a rare sonic power to channel the essence of what made music from the ‘60s and ‘70s resonate without any semblance of kitsch or irony.

In the winter of 2009, the band released the LP Heartaches by the Pound, a tribute album of covers all “originally and impeccably sung” by Solomon Burke, according to the CD jacket.

I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t that so dangerously Cat Power or Rufus Wainwright of them to record an all covers album? The answer is, unequivocally, “no.” The Rosewood Thieves actually have the ability to approach a catalog of Rock & Roll/Soul standards and add new verve and flavor into the old chords.

For Erick Jordan, the Thieves' lead singer and guitarist, appreciation for Classic Rock is a family tradition.

“My earliest memories are (of) my dad playing all these songs while he was watching me — he had very good taste in music,” Jordan says.

“I grew up listening to all these classic albums, like The Beatles, Dylan and The Zombies.”

Jordan’s father played in Rock bands in the ‘70s. As a child, he discovered the guitar and his parents served as his guide through the annuls of Classic Rock music.

“I was fortunate to have a lot of early music history (education),” he says.

Having learned drums and piano as a kid, he began thinking about forming a band. The Rosewood Thieves eventually formed and churned out the debut EP From the Decker House in 2006.

There's almost an unspoken emphasis amongst the Thieves’ members to sound not of the current era. Not only is their sound groomed to sound like yesteryear, but they also employ yesteryear’s recording methods.

“I just really like the sounds of all those old records where it sounds like people in a room making music,” Jordan says.

Heartaches by the Pound was recorded in the Thieves’ Brooklyn home. From the Decker House is named for their abode in upstate New York.

“We kind of just like to all be in a room together and record and not do too many overdubs and not take too much time making the records,” he says.

The Rosewood Thieves have also taken a backwards Beatles approach to their career. They first recorded their albums and only now are starting to tour seriously.

“We were kind of in a bubble when we were doing all our earlier stuff,” Jordan says. “We never played in front of people really.”

The Thieves played regional shows in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut but didn’t tour outside the New York area until after their first full-length record, Rise & Shine, was released in 2008.

Touring has taught the band how to appreciate its songs, according to Jordan. He says letting songs breathe on stage adds new life and vitality to a set list and allows them to play longer and more confidently.

“We’re finally getting to where we feel like it’s fun to perform,” he says.

Since they began touring, the Thieves’ set list has doubled in size and they're more comfortable being a band.

“It’s a lot more fun to pick and choose what songs you want to do every night,” Jordan says. “It keeps it interesting.”

THE ROSEWOOD THIEVES play the MidPoint Music Festival at 11 p.m. Saturday at the Lodge Bar's ICB Stage. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get MPMF details here.



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