It’s good to have admirers with influence, so when the Romany Rye’s “Untitled (Love Song)” was picked by Adam Duritz of Counting Crows as the opening track on their new covers album, it meant a lot of people would get exposed to the band’s dusty blend of Americana and rock’n'roll – and not before time.
Some bands have just got that magic and MacMaster presides over a band who distill the best parts of Ryan Adams, Conor Oberst and the Grateful Dead into a timeless amalgam. MacMaster named his musical project after a long forgotten mid-19th century novel by George Borrow, an English novelist, linguist and lover of European cultures, particularly the Romany gypsies who lend their name to the book title. It seems appropriate that MacMaster happened on Borrow’s work for his band name – Borrow was a man out of time, whose restless travels and philosophical searching led him far from his native Norfolk and into a world of indigenous cultures and traditions. MacMaster’s instinctive musical gifts share some of that loose-limbed adventuring spirit and it’s that sense of adventure which is so strongly invested in the band’s early recordings and MacMaster’s relentless touring, which at the last count had seen him play 50 of the US states.
The smoky-voiced frontman originally found the rest of his band fully formed and without a singer, and the two disparate parts were put in touch by Taylor Goldsmith, the Dawes singer. What transpired was a happy musical chemistry that has resulted in a sound hinged on jamming grooves, soul and country spirit. The attritional music industry has since seen further band changes, but MacMaster’s talents are undoubted and are certainly set for a wider audience in the near future. Not bad for the former art school student who didn’t own a guitar until he was 23 and confesses he learned more about music than art during his studies.
The band released the attention-grabbingly good “Highway 1, Looking Back Carefully”, a kind of extended EP in late 2009, featuring two of the bands standout songs, “Brother” and the aforementioned “Untitled (Love Song)” now brought to wider attention by Duritz, who counts himself as a big fan of the band’s undeniable groove, one that understandably has drawn Grateful Dead comparisons. The band’s first full length album proper, “Quicksilver Sunbeam”, came out at the start of the year and featured reworked versions of “Brother” and “Untitled (Love Song)”, and is currently only available on digital download, but with MacMaster starting to build some weighty word-of-mouth momentum 2012 may well be the year when The Romany Rye’s adventures really begin in earnest.