The Rose Petals’ American Grenadine

By Brian Rock

The Rose Petals make history – or at least sing about it, on their debut album, American Grenadine. The ascendant Americana duo had the unorthodox, yet inspired idea to create an album dedicated to former American presidents. Specifically, they sing about the deaths (or in three cases, encounters with deaths) of these national leaders. They also dig into the less remote musical past to bring these stories to life. Combining the jangly folk rock of the Byrds with the surreal lyricism of R.E.M., The Rose Petals create a distinctive brand of Americana that tilts heavily to the alternative side of the spectrum.

“Welcome to the Big Top” starts off the presidential hit parade with insanely catchy guitar riffs and beautiful vocal harmonies that play like a supergroup combination of the entire Athens, GA music scene of the mid 80s. The lyrics are obscure as they drop bread crumb references to the life and death of Warren Harding. But even without knowing the details, the song is gorgeously orchestrated and the chorus will have you singing along by the second verse.

Switching gears (and generations) they employ a more stripped down Lumineers or Avett Brothers feel to celebrate George Washington. The slower tempo adds gravitas to the story of self-sacrifice of this man who would rather farm than fight or govern, but who set aside his personal desires to serve the fledgling country that he loved.

“Military Man,” captures early Byrds melodies to recall the life of Dwight Eisenhower, who was, fittingly, the president at the birth of rock and roll. Again, the lyrics defy easy comprehension, but hint at Eisenhower’s military leadership and the era of prosperity during his administration.

In addition to celebrating some of our former presidents, The Rose Petals also pay tribute to their first ladies. “My Dearest Fried,” recalls the special relationship between John and Abigail Adams in R.E.M. tones. In an era before airplanes and cell phones, John was often separated from Abigail for months at a time in the course of his duties. This song is a kaleidoscopic patchwork of the letters he sent to her in his absence. “Lemonade Lucy,” embraces Avett Brothers melodies to sing about temperance activist Lucy Hayes, wife of Rutherford B. Hayes. The band captures Lumineers’ rhythms to sing about the love of Grace Coolidge for her husband Calvin in, “They Say You Loved a Good Man.”

The Rose Petals shine their jangly, alternative/Americana spotlight on presidents Truman, Madison, Reagan and both Roosevelts. With inscrutable lyrics, they convey Picasso-like images of each leader, incorporating snippets from their life before politics and their personal relationships to add a bit of depth to their stories. The lyrics often raise more questions than they answer. The liner notes of the album give brief synopses of the inspiration for each song, but mainly serve to whet the appetite for further research.

But you don’t need to be a history buff to enjoy this album. In this case, the music speaks louder than the words. With sparkling melodies and sweet harmonies, The Rose Petals take us on a magical history tour that’s as sweet to the ear as American Grenadine.  |  fb  |  buy

Brian Rock

Brian Rock

Brian was raised gypsy style, moving every other year until well after college. As friendships proved to be temporary, Brian found a constant companion in music, wearing the grooves off Beatles and Dylan albums before moving on to Lyle Lovett and Dwight Yokam. Living so often in flux, he has come to value music and lyrics of lasting quality. Not moved by trends or fashion, he is drawn to timeless lyrics and soulful rhythms. Although now settled down, Brian still expresses his gypsy spirit through his writing. He has co-written songs with musician friends he’s met along the way, including several contributions to the 2012 ICMA Album of the Year, Family Album. Brian also writes children’s books and poems, including the Children’s Book Council featured title, The Deductive Detective.
Brian Rock

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