Dave Rude might be best known for his guitar work with Tesla– he’s currently on tour with them now. But before Tesla came a knockin’, Rude formed Dave Rude Band in 2005, and he continues to write, record and perform (Rude on guitar and vocals) with his partners in that venture, Marco Guzman on bass and Josh Schmidt on drums. June 4 saw the release of their third album, The Key.
As a fan with diverse taste in music and as someone who writes about music, I spend a lot of time thinking about the authenticity of what I’m hearing. Am I hearing what a band is actually playing or am I hearing something that has been scrubbed and sanitized to within an inch of its life in the production process? A group like the Dave Rude Band puts me in the mind of the maxims I keep hearing about healthy food (go with me on this): the fewer ingredients, the more authentic the flavor.
The liner notes on this CD show me a short list of ingredients. It’s definitely a polished production, but it’s also clear on this album– and its predecessors, 2008′s self-titled debut and 2009′s Carry Me Home– that this is a group that is using its influences from The Great Bands and adding their own twist to the sound.
The real standout for me is Rude’s voice, which is tonally rich and shows remarkable range through a diverse selection of musical styles. The early tracks on the album, “The Key” and “Yours to Hold” have a more metallic feel in the guitar sound and tempo. But then there’s the blues-rock, almost (but not quite) country sound of a ballad like “Forgive Her.” Interestingly, Rude’s guitar work shows the same kind of diversity of playing, shifting from power chords, to virtuoso electric riffing, to bluesy noodling, and strumming on an acoustic. It’s worth the price of admission just to see the facets of a talented and flexible musician.
But despite the name of the band and Rude’s on central role in it, this album doesn’t have the feel of a band that’s working as life support for a single member. Guzman and Schmidt show the range of their own chops on these tracks, and it gives the album the feel of a dressed-up version of three guys jamming together. Because of all the stylistic variance between tracks, it might have been very easy for The Key to slip into a place of disarray, bouncing around from thing to another. But the consistency in the rhythm section keeps the project well clear of that place. Instead, it’s a collection of well-written songs that are interesting to listen to and can stand well on their own or as a unit, much like the band itself.
1) The Key– Possibly the heaviest track on the album, big guitar and BIG drums, dark tone.
2) Yours to Hold
3) Afterlife– Guzman gives us a menacing bass line here, accompanied by a stripped-down guitar. Vocal harmonies on the chorus hearken back to the arenas of yore.
4) On My Own Again– It’s not a power ballad. It’s just a ballad. Simple, acoustic, sincere.
5) Iron Grip
6) Own the Night– Screams forth with a big guitar sound into a rousing chorus.
7) Forgive Her– It’s too upbeat to be a ballad, but there’s a soulful vocal and the essence of 70s radio (but in a rocking way, not a cheesy way).
8) One Night, One Day– A slightly more pop sound, less heavy than some of the other tracks, but this is one where the vocals really sell the tune.
9) Sledgehammer– It’s a blues-metal version of Peter Gabriel’s classic, and it’s kind of ridiculously sexy.
10) Charlie Manson– I’m not sure how I feel about this one lyrically, but it’s got a great guitar hook here. Stick around for a hidden instrumental and a smooth finish.
The Key is available for download from the usual suspects (Amazon, iTunes, etc.) and in CD format from the band’s label, Rat Pak Records.
Stay tuned tomorrow for more Dave Rude in a slideshow of Tesla’s performance at San Francisco’s Regency Ballroom in May. And follow us by email for exclusive interviews and more. Don’t miss a rockin’ thing!