January 17, 2018
Dusty Rust – Stolen Horse
Picture, if you will, a wide-open range with a couple of hundred steers shuffling at a hurried pace creating a dusty haze in the heat. The camera pulls back to find our lonesome cowboy leading his horse at a brisk pace singing “No One To Blame”. This is Dusty Rust, long time resident of Kansas City, Missouri, delivering a Country & Western tune with his attractive baritone. We get pedal steel, fiddle and reverb guitar as he channels his inner Frankie Laine.
Dusty Rust has been plying his trade for some years (sadly, not on horse back) and this is his third release. A quick search on YouTube finds him documenting a tour through Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Missouri playing minor venues. He’s typical of many touring artists waiting for that elusive propulsion into The Big Time.
“I Was Wrong” brings to mind 1960s commercial Country, à la Glen Campbell, as a banjo picks out the melody whilst Rust’s winning and expressive vocal tells you of his heartache. This is on top of a nonchalant rhythm, all held together by harmonica. “Ride” continues in the same upbeat vein but pedal steel picks up the melody whilst the guitar chimes; I can imagine Rust singing, eyes closed and his head tossed back, up on the stage of these small bars whilst couples take the floor in front of him.
He has an ear for a melody. With crafted, structured and layered arrangements we work our way through 38 minutes of music that I’d describe as contemporary traditional Country. There’s plenty of Honky Tonk and Outlaw to be behold but there is that measured tunesmith sensibility. Making this record exceptional is Rust’s production. Subtle layers involving guitars, pedal steel, fiddle, banjo and piano, often way back in the mix, create a sound that places it in this millennium despite it’s 20th century origins.
Arizona includes the ambiguous description of his transport as a ‘slightly stolen van’! The stellar arrangement creates that ‘60s sunshine pop feel whilst exiting with present-day sounds that would impress Adam Granduciel.
“Hell On Fire”, my album highlight, picks up the recurrent theme of girl trouble, albeit this femme is more than tricky after shooting the farm’s banker – “Hey San Diego, how far are you? I’m shot in San Francisco and there’s nothing I can do, The lady I love is hell on fire and the world’s about to burn, The next train I’ll get to leaving, she’s no longer my concern, I’m out on my way”. Like a novel this tale unfolds whilst electric guitars howl behind the acoustic and drum shuffle creating that eerie and haunting atmosphere that this surprising story demands.
With only nine tracks we’re treated to all killer and no filler. With the supposed resurgence of traditional Country making a commercial comeback (albeit it helps to have an obligatory Willie Nelson duet and be supported by Jack White) then Dusty Rust may just catch the tide. Music as good as this deserves a much wider listen. Indulge me.