by Poppy GallowayInspired by Appalachian string bands, Memphis soul, New Orleans dixieland, and honky tonk harmonies, Roosevelt Dime describe their multi-faceted sound as "Steamboat Soul". After years of thrilling audiences at festivals and venues across the country, the band has captured the energy and musicianship of their live performance on their latest album, Full Head of Steam (2014). The Brooklyn Waterfront Museum - a historic barge floating on Red Hook’s coastline - felt like the perfect spot for the quartet to play last Thursday.
Singing songs born from whiskey and moonshine, it was almost cruel that in such a watery setting there wasn't a drop of the stronger stuff in sight. But, that did nothing to stop the punters from shimmying and shaking - and with good reason. Andrew Green, Eben Pariser, Tony Montalbano and Seth Paris are a cohesive, soulful force, with the perfect mix of talent and showmanship to make the audience feel they're witnessing something special.
The gig was split into two sets that covered a lot of ground: rhythm and blues, rockabilly, bluegrass and soul. Paris' bop-inspired horn arrangement of “Crazy Bout You” over a bluegrass-style banjo was an easy crowd pleaser. Another standout was “I Want Mo!”, a “dangerously in love” song written on the Q train. The vocal harmonies of Green and Pariser were joined by a hand-clapping breakdown that's become a rare sight at shows these days. My personal favorite from the new album is “Oh To Be”, and the live version didn’t disappoint. Full of sweet rhymes, finger-picking guitar and a foot-tapping, thigh-slapping rhythm, the band had everyone on their feet and singing along.
Following an intermission spent watching and listening to a Rube Goldberg machine propel balls into various percussive objects, the band returned with the folk classic “Cocaine Habit Blues”, built on a Bo-Diddley beat and the quavering vocals of Pariser. When they invited the crowd to sing along, not a single person remained silent.
Their rendition of “St. James Infirmary,” displayed a more minimalistic, stripped back arrangement of the New Orleans classic, with the focus on the roaring, no-holds-barred drawl of Andrew Green. His talent to combine soulful and raw singing with storytelling had the crowd mesmerized, breaking their gaze only to tap their feet to Akin's sweet and complex bass.
Roosevelt Dime are one of those gems that sound better even live than they do on record. Luckily Full Head of Steam is a live studio album, so if you weren't lucky enough to see them play on a boat, make sure to grab the next best thing here.