Band of the Week
Rob Duskey and The Roundersby Jeff Niesel
Meet the Band: Rob Duskey (vocals, guitar), Brian Hardman (bass), Rob Kovacs (piano), Stu Laven, Jr. (drums), Michael Paciotti (mandolin), Megan Zurkey (vocals, guitar), G.S. Harper (vocals, guitar)
Momentous Year(s): The band is heading into 2013 buoyed by unstoppable energy of last year's busy happenings. Their sophomore release, Blank Canvas to Man, dropped in February and reminded the region of Duskey's top-tier song- writing chops. A lineup change brought in some additional heavyweight musicianship and allowed the band to stretch its legs and really commit to the craft.
Dynamics in Action: Recent shows have made some fans to wonder aloud about the decision to roll out so many new tunes. "I don't think you can get better without writing new songs," Duskey says. He adds that the band is toying around with more dynamic sounds — highs and lows that accent the core songwriting attitude. Oh, yeah: Duskey also bought an electric guitar recently. So there's a hint of the band's forthcoming musical directions.
The Great Gig in the Lounge: Duskey often invites friends to stop by and throw down an opening set at the local Rounders shows. Not tonight, though. The band will hit the stage and deliver the goods for several hours straight this evening. "You're probably going to get everything we've ever released and then some new stuff, as well," Duskey says.
Where You Can Hear Them: robduskey.com
Where You Can See Them: Rob Duskey and the Rounders will dish up a rockin' evening of music at 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 25 at Brothers Lounge.
Rob Duskey and The Rounders - Blank Canvas to Man
by Janet Goodman
90s folk rock is back for a spin, thanks to the new release by Cleveland band, Rob Duskey and The Rounders. This retro-feel sophomore CD of nine self-penned songs recaptures that ever-present rootsy sound of groups back then like Hootie and The Blowfish and Blues Traveler; BT’s John Popper’s sparkling featured harp performance on “Palo Alto” makes that official.
Jodi Dobos adds resonant, velvety female harmonies to Duskey’s emphatic vocals for a welcome, ear-opening balance, and along with their bright and hopeful melodies, and fine keyboard playing, carry the record throughout. Single “Meet Me in the Middle” is one of the most memorable offerings here, and more surprises like the refreshing, Hammond-laden reggae break on “It Takes Time” could have taken this record to new levels.
Duskey’s lyric style is poetic, and themes often hover around relationship woes. Final track “Twenty Six” may be his finest moment of storytelling, from which he titled this album: “Woke up the other day/And I saw my life slipping away/You see it’s not supposed to be like this/At least not for me at twenty six/And I know life doesn’t go as planned/But I won’t fold when I’m dealt this hand/And now I’ve gone from blank canvas to man/Calling you all in on a rags to riches plan.”
This Cleveland folk-rock act's second release is defined by tight harmonies between Jodi Dobos and Rob Duskey, whose strong voice sounds like a mix of Darius Rucker and John Popper. The Blues Traveler frontman even makes a guest appearance, adding his harmonica to "Palo Alto."
Blank Canvas to Man is an exceptionally fitting title for Rob Duskey and the Rounders’ brand new album I was lucky enough to get a sneak peak of through Eric, John and mine’s interview with Rob on Monday September 12, 2011 in the WJCU studios. From start to finish, the album takes you on a refreshing journey through reality. Track 2, Meet Me in the Middle, sets the tone of the album with an upbeat story of compromise and a sense of grounding. Rob and the gang surprise us with track 4, Palo Alto, featuring John Popper with an insane harmonica solo about ¾ of the way through the song. I would have to say after listening to the album a couple of times over, Twenty Six, track 9, is probably my favorite (and I agree with Rob when he says he loves the acoustic “whoas” at the end). It brings out a lot of what Rob and the Rounders want to get across on this album and really showcases the passion that was put into making the man from the blank canvas. Rob and the Rounders don’t forget to sneak a couple slower songs in there with track 5, Sunshine, and track 8, Dance For Me.
When we asked Rob how he felt about the album overall, I think he says it best. “When you put your heart and soul into something and it turns out to be good, yeah, you can feel good about it.”
With its impressive blend of instruments in addition to the smooth vocals and lyrics (and of course that killer harmonica), Blank Canvas to Man really comes together to create a sound I haven’t heard many do well since the mid 90s. The more I listen, the more I love it.
Find out more about Rob Duskey and the Rounders at robduskey.com or check them out on Facebook. The album is set to release NATIONALLY February 14, 2012!
Listen to Rob's visit to the WJCU Studio's here: Rob Duskey's Visit to WJCU September 12, 2011.
You'd think that someone who writes about local music here in Cleveland would know all the players. After all, it's not like we're New York City. I'm not ashamed to admit that there's plenty of local music I've yet to discover. In fact I find it quite thrilling. So many people are making such good music in my town and that's why I feel the need to let everyone know about it.
Take Rob Duskey And The Rounders as an example. His latest release, "Blank Canvas To Man," sounds like it could easily have been written, performed and produced in Nashville. Instead, he uses the treasure trove of talent we have right here in Cleveland to create a polished and accomplished album. Well, except for the appearance of John Popper (Blues Traveler) who plays harmonica on a tune.
Blues Traveler is a fine comparison to Duskey's music. It carries the same rootsy rhythyms and a voice that is reminsicent of Popper's own. The added highlight is Jodi Dobos's vocals, which help create something that is uniquely their own.
The fact that music's new delivery model is streaming isn't lost on Duskey. He's one of the first musicians I've seen who's embedded the album on the band's Facebook profile which I linked to above. You can also find his 2009 debut, "Cautiously Optimistic" on Spotify.
Compared to everyone from the Doors and Van Morrison to Counting Crows and Rusted Root, local roots-rock act Rob Duskey and the Rounders are looking forward to its sophomore effort, a follow-up to 2009's "Cautiously Optimistic."
"With the first album we were trying to figure out what kind of band we wanted to be, and I was trying to figure out what kind of songs I wanted to write," said Lakewood resident Duskey, a 2001 Avon Lake High School graduate.
"This record, it's nothing but pure honesty. There are people who have come up to me after reading the new lyrics and said, 'How could you say something so honest about yourself?' I just felt like if you didn't have something honest to say then it's probably not that important."
New songs already in the mix include the upbeat love song "Good Gets Better" and the ballad "Sunshine." As far as songwriting is concerned, Duskey has a simple process in mind.
"I basically create a skeleton, and the band fills in the rest," he said. Along with Duskey on guitar and vocals, the band includes Stu Laven Jr. (drums), Jan Bautista (guitar), Brian Hardman (bass), Mike Paciotti (mandolin, guitar) and Jodi Dobos (vocals). "Basically it's coming from a songwriter's standpoint, and we kind of turn them into rock 'n' roll songs focusing on serious and close relationships."
Rob Duskey and the Rounders have a 9:30 p.m. show Friday night at Brothers Lounge, 11609 Detroit Ave., Cleveland. Cover is $5. Call 216-226-2767.
Rob Duskey & the Rounders
Somewhere out there, someone is breaking someone else's heart. And that is something that we should all secretly be a bit grateful for. Cautiously Optimistic, the new album from Rob Duskey and The Rounders is a shimmering example of at least one positive side effect of the emotional wrecking ball. Without it, I'm not sure that we'd be hearing tracks with names like "Woman Overboard," "Used To It," and "The Negatives." Duskey certainly has come a long way since I first saw him perform at The Winchester's weekly open mic last year -- an evening in which he impressed with a solid performance that immediately registered him on my list of Cleveland locals to keep an eye on.
In that time, Duskey continued to develop his songwriting, formed a band under the name of The Rounders, and secured a record deal in January with the Boston dance-techno label Slanted House – despite being neither "dance" nor "techno."
Cautiously Optimistic is flat out, a good time rock and roll tale of many loves found and many loves lost, played out in eight tracks over 34 minutes. Chris Hanna (Jack Fords, Chris Allen) adds heaping helpings of luscious Hammond organ fills and solos throughout the album that help to fill out the band sound of The Rounders. Stretching out, Hanna and guitarist Jan Bautista trade solos for nearly a minute and a half on "When I Go," providing one of the many highlights of the album. And just when you expect the band to kick back into full gear and another verse from Duskey, the track ends with a serious sneak attack of an ending. Duskey and the Rounders take a similarly economic approach on several other tracks that are very likely expanded in the live setting, but appropriately abbreviated on the album.
Duskey's vocals on Cautiously Optimistic will remind music lovers of Dave Matthews Band, Counting Crows, Ben Harper, and even a bit of Rusted Root, thanks to the additional vocals of Jodi Dobos. Cleveland hasn't had a male/female vocalist rock record pairing as enjoyable as this in a long time, since perhaps the much loved alternative rockers The Waynes in the early 90s. Duskey and crew have songs, are ready to travel – and with any amount of justice, the world will become very familiar with Rob Duskey and the Rounders before the end of 2009.