Rosavelt

Rosavelt

BandRock

Song driven rock band with the melody and the lyrics to be regarded as one of the best. Won numerous awards and the critical praise necessary to fill clubs and sell records.

Biography

Christopher Allen: vocals, guitar, songs
Doug McKean: bass, vocals
Miles Loretta: drums, vocals

The Story of Gasoline, Rosavelt’s third album, opens with a false start. Twanging their way through the intro to the title tune, the band gets as far as the first line when singer/guitarist Chris Allen abruptly stops his cohorts and says, “I wanna do that different.” They oblige, turning up the volume to 11 and ravaging the song in vintage Replacements fashion, setting the tone for the ensuing 40 minutes. This memorable moment recalls another that took place in a Memphis recording studio nearly four decades ago, when a young Elvis Presley pulled the plug on a hillbilly version of “Milkcow Blues Boogie” and immediately thereafter laid out the blueprint for what would come to be known as rock ’n’ roll. Allen’s gambit is at once heady and visceral, and this juxtaposition of smarts and balls characterizes the album as a whole. Playing it loud will make the listener feel like the guy in that Maxell ad who’s being propelled backward in his chair, while attention to the lyrics makes it clear that Allen is a writer of thoughtful eloquence.

“It does give a sense of where we came from,” Allen says of the track, which crystallizes Rosavelt’s evolution from alt-country leanings to more edgy rock ’n’ roll. In fact the opening track, “Gasoline,” was written for some friends in a bluegrass band. “By the time we recorded that one,” Allen continues, “we were so steeped in the rock stuff we were playing that it was automatically going to come out that way. But in terms of the theme of the song, it’s the perfect opener for the record.

For The Story of Gasoline, the band hooked up with artist/producer Don Dixon. At the time they were working as a three-piece. Dixon—who produced memorable records by R.E.M. and the Smithereens—not only fell in love with Rosavelt’s music, he had a vision of what it would take to capture every sweaty bit of the urgency the band exhibited in live performance. By the summer of 2003, Rosavelt had a revamped lineup in place and an album’s worth of songs fresh out of the oven. Dixon arrived in Cleveland, where Rosavelt is based, and set up his gear in the Beachland Ballroom for two days and nights of seat-of-the-pants record making.

Prior to these banzai sessions, Rosavelt had run through the material just enough to have a feel for each song—making sure the tunes retained their newness when they were tracked live in the room. The band set up on the stage, Dixon close-miked the musicians, placed microphones
around the big, empty space to get the natural reverb and without further ado they went at it.

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The producer’s hellbent-for-leather concept worked like gangbusters, in no small measure because the band, at once relaxed and inspired by the casual environment and Dixon’s motivational vibes, turned in one passionate performance after another, nailing the edgy romanticism of Allen’s songs, most of which document tumultuous relationships and the scars they leave in their wake.

“I was almost afraid to write these songs—it was a really rough period,” Allen recalls. “I talked to Dixon about it one afternoon, and he said, ‘Just write your way through it.’ So I did, and by the end of it, after I wrote ‘Last Heartache,’ I felt really good. I’d come full cycle.”

Among the several stunners on The Story of Gasoline are the rollicking “Bright Blue Hell,” which recalls Wilco circa AM and contains the vivid lines, “I can taste the bitterness / A summer night beneath a summer dress”; the keenly observed character study “Perfect Girl”; the existentially solitary “Saturday 3 am Blue”; “Pointed Pistol,” which sounds like some just-discovered outtake from Exile on Main Street; “Emerald Hope,” an impressionistic narrative about the decayed dreams of Sixties idealism; and the above-mentioned “Last Heartache,” the album’s lacerating, cathartic centerpiece (“A new man, a new breed / I took my heart off of my sleeve / A radio smoked an ashtray / Nothing left here, no one to blame”).

Throughout the album, Allen’s vocals sound so emotionally authentic that it seems inaccurate to call them performances. According to Allen, Dixon had something to do with that, too: “When we did the lead vocals, he said, ‘Why don’t you just sing everything once, just as a scratch, so the band can do backups over it?’ That was his way of getting me to sing the whole record. That’s Don’s whole philosophy of making records. He didn’t let us get too neat with things. He told us, ‘When someone listens to the record, make them feel like it was easy, make them feel like it was a lot of fun.’” Mission accomplished.

The Story of Gasoline is the follow-up to 1997’s Carp and Bones, named Best Local Album by Cleveland Scene and 1999’s Transistor Blues, which earned Best Local Album from the city’s Free Times. Both earlier records received critical accolades that recognized the band’s musicianship and songwriting. “The k

Discography

Carp and Bones
Transistor Blues
The Story of Gasoline