Rose & The Bros expands its rootsy reach with 'It's Music' 

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After releasing its self-titled debut in 2019, Ithaca’s Rose & The Bros returns with “It’s Music,” which finds the band pushing beyond its Cajun and country roots to incorporate folk and Americana influences with a greater emphasis on original material.

Indeed, singer-guitarist Paul Martin wrote six of the album’s tunes — three more than on the first album — including the opening title track, whose buoyant lyrics set the tone for the rest of the record. At its heart, Rose & The Bros remains a dance band, with Rosie Newton’s accordion and Steve Selin’s fiddle driving most of the 12 songs.

The group’s secret weapon is the rhythm section of drummer Greg Evans, who teaches jazz at Ithaca College and Cornell University, and bassist Angelo Peters, who has played Afrobeat, reggae, and roots rock with Big Mean Sound Machine, the Crucial Reggae Social Club, and Swamp Kids, respectively. Their diverse backgrounds allow them to impart some subtly different feels to the grooves, which Sally Freund augments on the scrub board and triangle.

Martin and Newton trade lead vocals on some songs, and share harmonies on others. Their winsome voices lend a homespun vibe to the album, which was recorded and mixed by Peters at his Black Bear Studio in Danby, and mastered by Alex Perialas at Pyramid Sound Studio in Ithaca.

After covering James Taylor (“Bartender Blues”), Red Hayes (“Satisfied Mind”), and Julie Miller (“Don’t Listen to the Wind”) on its debut, Rose & The Bros continue to expand its rootsy terrain by tackling bluegrass icon Peter Rowan’s “Walls of Time” and British folk legend John Martyn’s “Don’t Want to Know,” which they first heard in a version by the late New Orleans blues-funk legend Dr. John.

The sextet again pays tribute to the three Louisiana stalwarts they feted on their debut, covering Keith Frank’s bouncy accordion instrumental “At the Trail Ride,” Dennis McGee’s twin-fiddle-fueled “La Reel de Barza” and “Valse a Pop,” and Bobby Charles’s bucolic “I Must Be in a Good Place Now.”

The album closes with Martin’s “As Time Goes By,” a lovely ballad featuring Chris Stafford, of the Louisiana Cajun band Feufollet, on pedal steel. Martin and Newton, who are married and just had their second child together, sing the heartfelt lyrics in a close harmony that reflects their strong yet still-growing relationship. It’s the perfect song for a slow dance after a slate of upbeat tunes.

Rose and the Bros plays an album release dance party at 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 7, kicking off the 2022 Big Sky Music Studio Concert Series at Sweet Land Farm in Trumansburg, N.Y. Tickets are $18 and are available online at;

Jim Catalano works for Ithaca's WITH-FM 90.1, a media partner of WXXI. Feedback on this article can be directed to [email protected].
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