As a writer who was both born and raised directly in the guts of small town living, it’s always been a revelation to experience the urban jungles of New York City. The way fields and flocks of trees dotted by fast food chains and auto part stores whiz by to become boroughs of ever-shifting ethnicities, 24 hour bodegas, and skyscrapers that seem to rise from the very depths of the sea itself.
That sense of awe (mixed with slight initial terror) has eased a bit after a lot of time spent in Brooklyn these last several years, but there are still moments that remind me of how far taking that journey feels. Whether you come from within the same state or across the country, your sense of self seems irrevocably altered when you land where the world truly feels… bigger. Where it’s breathing the deepest. Where your past feels like another part of you that’s still shaped who you are as a person, but seems like it was in a picture postcard where you marked your height upon the wall a lifetime ago.
I get that same vibe from David Rothschild and his new EP Carolina Seems So Long Ago, where he and his band The Downtown Local create a tightly slick, country-folk landscape that carries The Band’s sense of Americana and joins it with a warm brandy glass of soul sweet enough to rival Van Morrison’s “Tupelo Honey”.
From the count-off of lead track “Solitary Serenade”, I feel my foot as well as my mind tap into time with the song’s shuffling piano lines, emotive pedal steel, and Rothschild’s vocals which erupt with the purity and imprinting message of songwriters the decades here and through. Young Tom Waits, David Gray, Levon Helm, all the way up to another contemporary by the name of Anderson East. But while East is Sam Cooke and Otis Redding wrapped in the brass of Muscle Shoals and New Orleans, Rothschild is Morrison reaching for his East Nashville croon… a youthful Bruce Springsteen just finding his poetic presence on a more rootsy Greetings From Asbury Park.
And indeed, Rothschild is every bit the well-hewn storyteller. While he might not emulate Springsteen’s working class loners and desperate racers struggling to break free of society’s darkness, his tales of returning lovers (“Serenade”), broken wayward souls (“Caleb”) and the wish to simply reminisce (“Carolina”) bring out the wearied best in what Ryan Adams’ everyman Whiskeytown period sadly left behind in Jacksonville.
Carolina makes the type of lyrical connections that take you from the forest pines to New York’s Canal Street and back again, and is even further bolstered by the fitting inclusion of a strong cover of Paul Simon’s “Graceland”. Because whether it’s New York City, Memphis, Tennessee or Carolina, this EP seeks the dust rising off of every road. The heated grit inside each subway platform. Getting to look back on every tale that comes from running up and down each point on the map.
And while I can’t say I’ve been to many places dotted on that metaphorical road map, it’s not about having done so. Carolina feels like it’s about youth. It’s about that want to exuberantly spread your wings and see what the world has waiting down every place flagged by a street sign. It’s about the stories, the lovers gained and lovers lost to go back to. It’s thinking that yeah, Carolina seems so long ago, but look at where I am today. As huge as it is, I’m still out here looking for that Graceland.
I’ve sensed the same thing many times just looking at those New York City skylines. The excitement, the fear, the magnitude of it all… that’s the part of the awe that never leaves. And I hope the same applies to Rothschild, because on only his second EP I can’t even begin to see the sky to his potential.
Something tells me he’s got plenty more stories, still left to be told.
David Rothschild and The Uptown Local’s second EP “Carolina Seems So Long Ago” arrives digitally today, and can be purchased via their Bandcamp (davidrothschildmusic.bandcamp.com), on Amazon and iTunes, and can also be streamed over on Spotify. The band will also be doing a record release show for the EP tonight at The Studio at Webster Hall. For more information about the band as well as their music, check ’em out on davidrothschildmusic.com, as well as Twitter and Facebook.
Photos are courtesy of the band’s Bandcamp page, and their Facebook. For more on David and The Uptown Local, check out the “Carolina” Release Day interview I did with him in the post below!