When Tony Califano was working on “Between Lines,” his band Rusticator’s latest album, he thought the release might involve a show at a local brewery.
He didn’t imagine Zoom or Facebook Live would be a part of it.
But, like many, he’s making the most of it.
“Between Lines,” which was released today, is the band’s third album and one that most represents its musical identity to date, with its bluegrass influences and Americana sound.
Rusticator is made up of Califano on guitar and vocals, Derek Dobson on drums, Joe Gumpper on fiddle and vocals and Jordan White on bass and vocals. They initially started playing together in 2013 and have regularly played at breweries like Wolf Hollow, Chatham and Argyle.
They’ve also been featured in local concert series line-ups like the Freedom Park concert series and Saratoga’s First Night.
“Between Lines,” marks a change in Rusticator’s sound.
“For the third time around I was like ‘Let’s go nuts and just do everything we’ve ever wanted to put on an album,’” said Califano, who is a music teacher in the Greenwich Central School District.
That includes adding everything from Hammond organ to electric and pedal-steel guitar.
“Home,” the opening track, is a meandering number, layered with mellifluous fiddle and mournful harmonies.
“Climbing a mountain, pickin’ up rocks, dodgin’ lightning on the way,” sings Califano.
It’s followed up by the lively “Rum Row,” which brings in electric guitar and touches on some of Califano’s musical roots in rock and jam bands.
“I was super into The Allman Brothers Band [and] the Grateful Dead. They’re a gateway to bluegrass in a lot of ways. So I got really into bluegrass 10 [to]15 years ago; I played in [a bluegrass] band but I was still playing in rock band/jam band type things,” Califano said.
“Now, we’ve reached the point with Rusticator where we’re ready to combine that into one thing. This is our third album, the first to have electric guitar on it so we’ve been gradually broadening our musical horizons.”
“Between Lines” gets soulful too, dealing with loss and the challenges and beauty of fatherhood.
“There ain’t a problem that can’t be solved by walking in the woods,” sings Califano in “Dear Sam.”
“I really like ‘Dear Sam,’ which is just a whole bunch of dad advice from me to my son. The words are sort of generic dad wisdom but musically, I’m really happy with how that one came out,” Califano said.
Many of the songs on the 11-track album were written by him, though several were created by White. Most of the time, the band’s songs are written by one member because getting everyone together can be difficult.
“It’s just the aspect of time I think is the thing that makes it tough because the band is not our full-time livelihood for any of us. Joe, who is our fiddle player, [and I], we’re both music teachers. Jordan does a million things; he’s one of the owners of Wolf Hollow Brewing. He’s also a minister so he’s got his irons in a lot of fires. Then our drummer, Derek, works for the Red Cross. So just getting everybody in a room to get the first tracks down, we had to plan months in advance just to do that,” Califano said.
To record “Between Lines,” the band started carving out time in October and luckily had the songs recorded before COVID-19 arrived in the Capital Region. The shutdown and all the canceled gigs that came with it gave Califano time to finish up the album.
It took a few very long Zoom meetings with the band to nail down album cover, final track edits and other details but Rusticator is finally ready to release the album. It’s available on Soundcloud, iTunes and other platforms.
At 7:30 p.m. on Friday, the band will host a listening party via Facebook Live and will answer questions about the making of “Between Lines.” WEXT will also play the album starting at 8 p.m.
“I think it’s a good musical representation of where we’re at and what we’re good at. It’s sort of all the music that I love condensed and spit out through my filter,” Califano said.
To learn more about the band or tune into the listening party visit Rusticator on Facebook or the band’s website, rusticatormusic.com.