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Foreword / The Rough & Tumble at Rockwood Music Hall

The Rough & Tumble

David Burke, Contributing Writer, Foreword / Afterword, September 23, 2015

The Rough & Tumble are playing Rockwood Music Hall in the Lower East Side Wednesday night at 9pm and I’m going to see what’s what. Once based in Nashville, Mallory Graham and Scott Tyler, The Rough & Tumble, have taken to the itinerant life, touring full time in camper with their dog. Their latest record, 2013’s double LP titled, The Rough & Tumble’s Holiday Awareness Campaign is their first full-length record, though the band has previously released a cluster of singles and EP’s from late 2011 until late 2012. Part café-acoustic, part indie film score, part quirk, part bells and shakers folk rhythm, a bit Joanna Newsom, and a tad Dolly Parton, The Rough & Tumble are entirely confounding, musically.

Listen to “Not Polite” from the 2012 EP, For You, Now That You’re Married…and for me, too. It is the best of what I’ve heard. Graham’s powerful voice conjures the Parton’s both in inflection and in her mid-range tension, and Tyler’s counterpoint vocals are complimentary, adding much needed depth to the otherwise sparsely picked and shook construction.  Where Graham’s voice is big and versatile, Tyler’s is gentle, decidedly café-crooner. The duo employs a ride range of instruments to fill out their sound, but what I hear on the records is mainly accordion, shakers and bells.

I don’t know what to make of The Rough & Tumble. Their cutesy, hand-sketched, arts and crafts image, and their oddly deliberate lyrics seem to clash. Most of their songs err on the side of haunted and lonely, but their subject matter is either playfully or ironically mundane. Perhaps it’s that tension that they’re after. The Rough & Tumble are palatable, but a strange sort of way. I’m curious to see how they play live. But that’s the word this week, young’uns. There or square.

David Burke

Contributing Writer

Foreword / Afterword

September 23, 2015


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