What began as a pair of Rustic Overtones reunion shows at the Asylum has turned into what you might call a tour: "Yep," confirms drummer Tony McNaboe, as if he can't believe it himself, "we're going to all pile into the van again."
In a world where supply and demand are intricately linked, the Overtones — McNaboe, guitarist and vocalist Dave Gutter, keyboardist Spencer Albee, bassist Jon Roods, and horn men Dave Noyes, Jason Ward, and Ryan Zoidis — have got the factory running at full steam to crank out enough product to please the revitalized market for their music. Exhibit No. 1, dropped Tuesday, July 24, in the form of Light at the End, a CD initially advertised as an effort to bring some old tapes to light, it sure feels like a cohesive and impressive album. It's certainly not a reason for a kick-ass band to go back to not being a band at all.
This Saturday and Sunday, Rustic Overtones will play their first plugged-in, full-band shows in more than five years. People bought up tickets so quickly that the band were forced to add two more shows the following weekend. (If for no other reason, they felt bad for the kids ponying up as much as $50 and possibly more — on eBay and the like for tickets to sold-out shows. They'll also play shows at old haunts like Harper's Ferry in Boston, a new haunt like the Stone Church in Portsmouth, then a gig in Albany for good measure.
Why stop there?
In answer to that question, McNaboe sounds a lot like Terry Francona — let's not get ahead of ourselves, folks. But the man who got this whole thing going again sounds positively ecstatic about what Rustic Overtones have accomplished in just a few months. " Things are going pretty well." he says, "Who knows?"
What I know is that Light is likely the band's best album, with all apologies to 1998's Rooms by the Hour, which, judging by Bull Moose sales, is being discovered for the first time by plenty of new fans. (How popular are Rustic in this town? The manager of Beal's Ice Cream tells me people even there freak when she plays Rooms over the cone joint's tinny speakers.)
Light's got the best version of "Hardest Way Possible," which appeared on both Rooms and Viva Nueva, the 2001 Tommy Boy release. Why release this song a third time?
"This is the way we've always wanted to release it," says Albee, "and now we finally can." Featuring vintage, five-year-old Gutter vocals and a full string arrangement, it's the most R&B of the three versions, and the least aggressive. But don't worry: they left in that crazy falsetto that finishes the tune. Now there's a test for Gutter, if they play the song live. His voice has definitely aged, gaining a smoky, world-weary quality that allows him to convey more emotion than before but doesn't keep him from grabbing you by the throat when the occasion arises.