Northern California’s favorite cosmic honky-tonk, country-rock party band has just released a new live album. “From Within Marin” is the debut from Green Leaf Rustlers. The Rustlers are led by Chris Robinson on vocals and guitar (Black Crowes, CRB), while flanked by Greg Loiacono on vocals and guitar (Mother Hips), as well as Pete Sears on bass, John Molo on drums, and Barry Sless on pedal steel and guitar. The latter three play together often with David Nelson Band and Moonalice, among other projects such as Phil Lesh & Friends. The band specializes in covering classic country favorites by artists such as Gram Parsons, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, J.J. Cale, and more.
Furthermore, the album was recorded and mixed by legendary Grateful Dead engineer Betty Cantor-Jackson. Per her normal process, she tracks the shows with her gear then brings the final results of the album to the band, hand-picked and curated personally with how she feels the release should flow. These recordings are from a run at Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley from March 2018
First up is Gram Parsons’ “Big Mouth Blues.” Chris is doing what he does, singing great and making the song his own. Loiacono chimes in with stellar harmonies. The rhythm section is very tight. Greg and Barry trade guitar and steel solos. What’s not to like? Next, Loiacono takes the lead on vocals with “Groove Me,” a staple of live Rustlers’ shows. Robinson effortlessly transitions to gravely-but-great harmonies.
A favorite is a twangy version of The Rolling Stones’ “No Expectations.” Sless is slicing and dicing throughout, echoing Brian Jones’ original slide part while simultaneously providing an original take. The psychedelic jam into “Folsom Prison Blues” and “That’s Alright Mama” takes some adventurous modal turns. These are the moments where Pete Sears especially shines, chasing the guitar players around the stage, while Molo is solid as a rock, but open and always ready for a fork in the road at the same time.
Bob Dylan’s “Positively Fourth Street” is Robinson at his best. He always does Dylan justice with his soulful crooning. The album wraps up with a spectacular finale of Ray Pennington’s “I’m A Ramblin’ Man” (made famous by Waylon Jennings) jamming into J.J. Cale’s “Ride Me High.” Everybody is a star on this sequence. Great guitar playing, weaving, jamming, fat grooves with daring twists and turns, with Chris belting out the words over the top.
If you dig cosmic California country music, this record is an absolute no brainer. It’s pristinely recorded, all the tones are there, and the flow is excellent. Really high marks from me.
– Jon Siembieda
Green Leaf Rustlers
‘From Within Marin’
Release: March 6, 2020
Label: Silver Arrow Records