Assembly of Dust: Required Listening

I tried to select instrumentalists who were complimentary to each song, someone who could change the texture. I had to think about who would make sense, who I aspired to play with and who had similar musical aesthetics. It was possible to imagine but impossible to know what they'd add.

-Reid Genauer

Photo by: C. Taylor Crothers

"It was awesome," says Herrick of recording with the various guests. "[Each musician made their respective piece] stronger, added more of a flavor than affected the overall taste of the track," he continued, unaware that Genauer, too, fancied discussing the project in culinary terms.

Assembly of Dust
Most of the songs were written and their structure didn't deviate radically from the original by the time they were recorded, Genauer says. "The songs are skeletons [when we go into the studio], and the band delivered the flesh and muscle to the songs." Herrick continues, "Reid and Nate would make rough tapes which demonstrated the direction and feel they wanted songs to take, because they know what they want. I think one that ended up different was 'Leadbelly' [with Jerry Douglas and Alison Krauss]. Some songs had several slightly different versions at the end of the day, but we always record [different] versions to support the story Reid tells. We [the rest of the band] use texture and feel to best support his words."

Both Herrick and Genauer used the word "satisfying" often, almost as much as they used the word "pride," and this being at peace with the songs and the recording comes across on the album. The resulting disc opens strong with "All That I Am Now," a wide-open, anthemic stomp with Genauer sharing vocal and guitar duties with '60s icon and Woodstock opening act Richie Havens. The clarity and power of Genauer's voice is reflected and complimented by the overall grand, reverby tones and texture of the song. The third track, "Cold Coffee," featuring David Grisman's plaintive mandolin, is met by Genauer's soft articulation of heartache, depression and self-doubt, making this coupling perfect. Similarly, "Second Song" with Keller Williams is AoD's answer to John Mellencamp's "Jack and Diane" or Steve Miller's "The Joker," a short story about dreams, realities and a lack of resources stacked against poppy, rolling melodies. Béla Fleck's rollicking, distinctive plucking on "Edges" make it a standout, with the banjo's phrasing saying as much as any words.

If a band's sound and songs are unique, then their sound and their words are as big a part of their brand as, say, their trademarked logo, name or live reputation. It is what makes a band almost instantly identifiable, so I was intrigued about how AoD would maintain their signature sound with so many guests.

Reid Genauer by C. Taylor Crothers
"I tried to select instrumentalists who were complimentary to each song, someone who could change the texture," Genauer says. "I had to think about who would make sense, who I aspired to play with and who had similar musical aesthetics. It was possible to imagine but impossible to know what they'd add."

Genauer calls the experiences in the studio "extremely poignant and meaningful" because his heroes became his colleagues. It is an endorsement and affirmation of the personal risks taken by Genauer.

A majority of the songs sound and feel natural with soft, acoustic stringed instruments, but it is the weighted delivery of both "Pedal Down," a rangy, loose-limbed Southern rocker featuring Cincinnati's Brothers Gabbard of the Buffalo Killers and the straightforward chugging rock of "Arc of the Sun," about the birth of Genauer's son, that add an edge to the album. Though "Arc" has been played live and is not necessarily new to fans, the album version is anchored by Mike Gordon and his swirling, fuzzed-out bass solo. Also featured on "High Brow," another rockin' track is moe.'s Al Schnier who helps inflate the band into something more aggressive and edgy, a sound that completely works.

How this all shakes out live, without the benefit of the guests, is something fans are curious to see and hear. When I asked Genauer if he was concerned about the lack of the guests during a live performance he replied, "Sometimes it's harder to recreate songs in the studio because the energy and excitement in a live setting can't be recreated. In this case the guests are that x-factor, and they created the energy usually created by the audience. The audience will do the same without guests, and also, the songs may grow and evolve. I look forward to what they become."

AoD will be touring throughout the summer and through the end of October, gaining momentum and working to build on their already solid assembly. While I was initially concerned that each guest would overwhelm the band, in retrospect I would have liked AoD to augment their guest's signature sounds a little more - boost them in the mix, extend a solo - but each guest did exactly what the band hoped they would do and that is what matters. They added a slightly foreign accent on an otherwise unmistakable voice and accomplish this without pretense. The strong writing and subtle arrangements definitely make this masterful Assembly of tunes Required listening.

Assembly of Dust tour dates available here, Reid Genauer solo dates here.

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[Published on: 7/30/09]

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