Mint Mile - Rough Rider LP

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Mint Mile - Rough Rider LP

Mint Mile - Rough Rider LP (Comedy Minus One/USA)

They Say

Mint Mile – the “new” band from Silkworm / Bottomless Pit’s Tim Midyett – is nearing a decade of existence. With Jeff Panall (Songs: Ohia), Justin Brown (Palliard), Matthew Barnhart (Tre Orsi) and a cast of fellow travelers, the group has to its credit a trio of EPs, the acclaimed double album Ambertron (which improbably owned its otherwise-ill-timed March 20th, 2020 release date) and now...Roughrider, the band’s second full-length.

Roughrider pulls from all the rest stops Mint Mile have traversed to get here. “Sunbreaking” opens the album with a timeless chord progression, hidden melodies sketched throughout the margins.

“Interpretive Overlook” is shockingly bare, dwelling on perspective and differing vantage points, with its final line (“This place so old...it needs something new”) both certain and open-ended. Songs like “Halocline” have become the heart of Mint Mile – Crazy Horse-fluent pieces that let Brown’s pedal steel do heavy lifting until the finale, where every instrument pours in all it can. The kinetic energy the band brings – aided by excellent alto saxophone (hold onto that thought for a second) – indicates that the group is far from out of new ways to immerse themselves in this world.

“Empty Island” is perhaps the band’s finest moment as “rockers,” and the record’s second track, the seven-minute “Brigadier,” loses itself completely in its main metaphor, unmooring Roughrider from any convenient frame of reference almost immediately.

Contributions from cellist Alison Chesley and Corvair’s Heather Larimer, both long in Midyett’s orbit, are welcome, although nothing prepares one for hearing Nina Nastasia – whom Silkworm covered on an EP over twenty years ago – sing Roughrider’s aching closing track. Nastasia gets some of the album’s darkest lyrics, and “I Hope It’s Different” sounds as beautiful as its last stanza (“Scrub off your history / Don’t learn / Don’t remember anything”) is uncomfortable.

That saxophone on “Halocline?” It is provided by founding Silkworm guitarist and vocalist Joel R.L. Phelps, a truly momentous occasion for those of us who still listen to In the West regularly. His contributions are a fascinating coda to “Halocline,” and on “S c ent” he is possibly the backbone of the entire song.

Change and “the new” hover all over Roughrider’s lyrics and subjects, from the peaking sunrise in the opening track to Nastasia’s fervent hope echoed by the title of the album’s closing number. In that sense, it’s not surprising that the song that most prominently features Phelps is the one that sounds the least like anything he or Midyett have ever done, together or separately.

Every trip through Roughrider is its own look, a new perspective on constant themes, with fresh elements coming to the fore. – Rosy Overdrive