Root's Rock

Rusted Root is playing better now that its frontman is playing nice.

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Rusted Root with Santana Blossom Music Center, 1145 West Steels Corners Road, Cuyahoga Falls 7:30 p.m. Friday, August 16. Tickets are $27.50 to $59.50; call 216-241-5555.
Unwashed and ready for action: Rusted Root at - Blossom Friday.
Unwashed and ready for action: Rusted Root at Blossom Friday.
There are six people in Rusted Root. Six people with voices, opinions, and ideas. Michael Glabicki, the Pittsburgh group's singer, songwriter, and guitarist, sometimes forgets this. He often thinks of the band as a vehicle for his voice, opinions, and ideas. He can be selfish. And thoughtless. This, he says, is a problem he's overcoming.

"I used to say, 'This is my spot on the song. Everybody stay away,'" he explains. "I hid behind them [while leading] them. I've learned that it's all about the music. You've got to put everything else aside."

So, with Welcome to My Party, Rusted Root's fourth album, Glabicki shares. And for the first time since the band's platinum-selling debut, 1994's When I Woke, Rusted Root sounds like a band. "It's a little nerve-racking," he admits. "There are so many ideas. Everyone has input and new ideas. And you can't do them all. I still had to step in and direct and run the band."

It's easy to spot the appeal of Rusted Root: They look like hippies, play hippie-like songs, and have a tendency to stretch those songs out onstage until they become variations on themselves. They're a jam band. They sell out shows when they play college towns. And they're worldly with their sound, in a way that peers like Widespread Panic and String Cheese Incident are not.

"We have a reputation of keeping it on the ground," Glabicki says. "Even when we play big, we're in with people. I think our audience appreciates that. Bands are out there doing stadiums, and I don't get that. I'd be happy to play bars."

Glabicki and his bandmates typically take two years to make a record. Welcome to My Party took four. They took some time off, stayed away from each other, and pursued solo interests. That made things so much better when they got around to writing and recording again, Glabicki says.

"The pressure of touring, making a record, touring . . . ," he sighs. "We didn't want to be put on a schedule. It was time to reevaluate and find ourselves."

Rusted Root is celebrating its newfound camaraderie by hitting the road with Carlos Santana and his band, which it also did a few years back. The supernaturally gifted guitarist can be intimidating, Glabicki admits. "Each night we go onstage and play some songs with him, and he'll play a song nobody knows -- not even his own band. Then he'll point at me to take a guitar solo, and he'll walk offstage to smoke a cigar."

But the hard part is over. Or at least the part where Rusted Root wasn't playing like a band. "What comes across on the record is that everybody relaxed into it," Glabicki says. "We had a good time making it. It was easy.

"Having the group input makes it sound more like us. And that's what we needed."

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