Itty-Bitty Review: Plymouth Rockers - Rocknoceros

 Plymouth Rockers by Rocknoceros album cover

Plymouth Rockers by Rocknoceros album cover

Sufjan Stevens was merely trying to attract some media attention when he released Michigan and said he was going to record a song for every state, but it's still a great idea -- a series of albums featuring songs about every United State.

Washington, DC-area band Rocknoceros, celebrating 10 years of making music together, head into their second decade intending to succeed where Stevens merely joked.  Inspired in part by Stevens' idea, their latest album Plymouth Rockers covers thirteen states, one river, and one general celebratory notion (a country-rock version of Irving Berlin's "God Bless America.")

Fifty states!  What opportunity for musical exploration!  And the trio do take advantage of it, featuring some island music ("Aloha," Hawaii, natch), bluegrass ("The Sunshine State," Florida), and some blues ("Louisiana") amidst the southern/country rock that's always been a genre staple.  (Of special note, Williebob's nifty guitar work on their remastered version of "Texas.")

But of course if you're going to tackle one subject on an album, the key is whether it's interesting lyrically.  At its best, the band gets at the states at a sideways angle -- the weather in "Would You Like To Visit Kansas?," the pirate sea shanty in "Mississippi River," and, in the album's best track, friendship in "I've Got Friends in New Jersey."   (Not quite as sideways, though, as John Linnell's gloriously askew State Songs album.)  The songs that are more travelogue in nature are duller in comparison.  (If you go back to that interview, linked above, I think the band recognizes that they don't need every song to be that checklist of famous things in every state and that, it's probably better if it isn't.)

The songs will on the 37-minute album be of most interest to kids ages 5 through 9.  Plymouth Rockers isn't a perfect album, and your kids probably won't ace their next geography quiz because of it.  But as the leadoff to another 2 or 3 albums of state songs, it's a darn good introduction and collection of Rocknoceros-y pop tunes.  Definitely recommended.

Note: I received a copy of the album for possible review.