HomeMusic“Ride On” by Roots Asylum

“Ride On” by Roots Asylum

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Ride On is a full-length album release from Kalamazoo, Michigan five-piece Roots Asylum, and one of the most buoyant releases I’ve recently heard. The band favors up-tempo pieces, but there’s a healthy amount of variety that drives the eleven-track collection rather than it sounding encumbered by an one-note approach. One of the chief factors setting them apart from similar bands of their ilk is the dual vocal presence of vocalist/rhythm guitarist and songwriter Jimmy Macaroni alongside harmony vocalist Katy Velten. The duo has obvious chemistry and their respective voices blend and contrast with gripping qualities that help sharpen the effect each of the eleven tracks has on listeners. Led by lead singer Jimmy McMillan, Roots Asylum is immediately likable and grows on you with each additional listen. 

“Talk About You” announces itself in a bold and aggressive fashion. Many bands of this ilk would hesitate to rock out with such conviction. Roots Asylum writes about an ego-tripper with singular flair, and there are several witty turns in the lyrics that are a cut above your average songwriting. Their talents leap out at you, and the song signals they have an appeal reaching far beyond your typical roots/Americana act. 

“90’s Grunge” solidifies that. It also opens us up more to the band’s sense of humor as they write about the once glorious music of the 1990s by working a laundry list of song titles from that time into the track’s lyrics. Threading such references together into an intelligent and coherent lyric is no small thing, and they pull it off. The accompanying musical arrangement doesn’t sound much like the music they are singing about, and that’s even better. 

“Ride On” goes in a different direction. It has a lightly rousing lift lacking from the other songs and seems explicitly written to play as a potential crowd favorite. Harmony singer Katy Velten really comes through with one of her best vocal performances on the album and electric guitarist Jeremy Timmer stands out too. The way Jimmy McMillan and Velten trade off lines during their cover of The Traveling Wilburys’ “Handle with Care” is worth the price of purchase alone. This track doesn’t get covered enough. Some may say they treat it with kid gloves, opting to reproduce its glories rather than recapture them, but there’s also a saying that applies here – if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. It’s one of the best complete band performances on the record. 

“Golden Hearts” is one of the most emotionally affecting tunes on Ride On. The strong country music vibe permeating the arrangement travels lightly, and it gets under your skin after a single pass, but it’s Jimmy McMillan’s performance that proves pivotal. He’s emotive in just the right way and gives “Golden Hearts” a proper elegiac quality without ever overplaying his hand. “Girl in a Tower” rocks it up a hair more than its predecessor, but the country-ish vibe remains audible. It’s also one of the best lyrics on the release and is full of vivid, imaginative lines that resonate long after your initial listen. There isn’t a single dud on Roots Asylum’s Ride On, and they’re just getting started. 

Heather Savage

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