“Hey, looks like the Whole Earth Catalog!” was my first thought when I laid eyes on The Rustic Riders latest CD, Wake Up! It’s a collection of 13 songs written and sung by Lisa Meissner, who along with her husband Klaus on percussion, and occasional help from friends, perform as The Rustic Riders. They live off the beaten path, in between Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake, NY, and the beauty that surrounds them certainly influences much of their material.
Lost Dog opens the CD. A blues number, which is somewhat of a departure from Lisa’s established style; it’s got some cute and catchy lyrics. A defiant woman who won’t be under any man’s thumb. “ I ain’t your lost dog, I’m the one who got away”. A tasty slide guitar line provided by Dan Duggan, adds to its credibility. Chicken Soup is Nice, an ode to older nurturing women, comes next. There are several underlying themes that run through this recording. One of them is an appreciative contemplation of elders; the previous generations. Someday continues in that vein. With it comes the realization that we keep moving up the age ladder ourselves and we will be the next round of elders. Time and tides stand still for no man. Susan Grimm Hanley embellishes the melody with her delightful flute part
The Riders go gospel with the title track, Wake Up. The song is a call to environmental and personal awareness, and the lively “hoe-down” country music pulls you right in to sing along. The Rustic Riders often use inspirational lyrics and phrases from the Bible, in their songs. Unlike some rightwing “Christians”, they get the stewardship thing, or so it seems to me. As a whole, the even more prominent theme that runs through Wake Up is the celebration of “Sustainability” as envisioned the likes of Bill McKibben. Small Farms is a happy ode to the upswing in eating local, farmers markets, low impact sustenance farms and communalism.
Lisa says she started writing The Storm is Coming as hurricane Irene approached. But the song transcends any particular storm and metaphorically covers the ways people, communities, and friends and family band together to weather the storms of life.
Drop In The Bucket is a straight out tip of the hat to Bill McKibben and his book Eaarth , Making a Life on a Tough Planet. If you’re not familiar with McKibben and his organization, 350.org, here’s a link to the NY Times review of it. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/09/books/review/Greenberg-t.html?_r=0Read it, and the whole CD will take on a profound and cohesive tone.
The next song, Keeping Time, which grew out of the Adirondack Rocking Festival, is a sweet song that sets you out an Adirondack porch in a rocking chair. It’s one of my favorite cuts. The imagery is soothing and welcoming. Dancing In Heaven is a touching reflection Klaus and Lisa’s parents. It’s quite a story. Traveling reminds us that nothing is static in life.
Holy Ground again merges the sacred and the common. This is a review of some music and poetry, not a theological debate, but I must say that I find Meissner’s outlook refreshing. The Rustic Riders use common understandable words and similitudes to argue out some pretty lofty ( or perhaps deep)concepts.
Shine Your Light is a straight out gospel song.
The final tune, Take Me, deserves its place among the best on the burgeoning Adirondack Folk scene. Mostly unknown by the rest of the music world, there is a rich vein of distinct music developing in these Northern Mountains. It’s a style that combines Celtic, Traditional American Folk, French Canadian, and other gendres with lyrics mined from the colors and light and wilderness found in this isolated region.
Wake Up! Is more than just an “Adirondack Folk” album, though it is every bit that. It’s an exercise in “right thinking”. On the ground floor, it’s an enjoyable folk/Americana recording, with pleasant and talented musicianship. Like an onion, it has multiple layers. Sometimes we have to hit the snooze button a few times before we hear the Wake Up! call.
You can purchase your own copy of Wake Up! or find sound samples from the artist's web site www.rusticriders.net
The Rustic Riders (Lisa& Klaus Meissner)
Recorded, produced, mixed and mastered by Dan Duggan Esperance Productions, Red Creek, NY