Few bands looked more promising in the late Nineties than Rustic Overtones. The Maine band spent years building a devoted New England following before recording their fourth album with Tony Visconti (David Bowie, Iggy Pop). Soon, Clive Davis signed them to release the big-budget LP on Arista Records. But before it was released, the label changed leadership. Rustic were dropped and broke up, feeling defeated, in 2002. (They reunited five years later, and still tour regionally.)
This reissue – which includes both the LP they planned to release on Arista and the more compromised, shorter version that was released by Tommy Boy Records in 2001 – proves the band were ready for the big leagues, with a unique sound steeped in both Earth, Wind and Fire-style funk and late-era Beatles psychedelia. Check the slow-burning soul of “Hardest Way Possible” or “Gas on Skin,” driven by a deep, psychedelic synth riff and towering horns. Bowie lends vocals to two highlights, the foreboding “Man Without a Mouth” and futuristic funk track “Sector Z,” where he proclaims “This is rock & roll,” sounding thrilled to have found some young dudes to be excited about. But even Ziggy Stardust himself doesn’t overshadow frontman Dave Gutter, whose grizzled growl can turn from soothe to scowl in seconds. Also included are several live tracks from Rustic’s hometown of Portland, Maine in 1999. Hearing the band’s excitement about recording the album makes knowledge of their demise all the more heartbreaking.