Rose’s Gravity raises the bar

When you have a background in classical music, some of that is going to seep into everything you do. When you are a keen observer of the human condition, all of what you see, hear, read and experience is going to find its way into what you do.

When you are Al Rose, you are going to tie those things together and write (and arrange) songs that are going to stop listeners in their tracks.
Rose does this on Gravity of Crow, his fourth disc. (See accompanying review.)

“I played flute all through grade school. I had private lessons,” Rose said. “Around my junior year of high school, I lost interest in the flute and taught myself to play the guitar.”

In college, Rose met Dave Kay and the two set out on a musical odyssey that included performing as a duet and with bands. They worked and learned the business together.

“We were always doing folk music,” Rose said of the early formative days.

When Rose formed The Transcendos, it was the first project he created on his own. This group became the vehicle focused on playing Rose’s songs.

While he still plays the flute occasionally (there are hints on “Gravity”), he is looking to play it more in the future.

“I lost interest in high school, but I resumed my interest an adult,” he said. “It’s just tough sometimes when you’re doing an acoustic gig to play it without a rhythm section.”

Gravity of Crow is, in a sense, a culmination of everything Rose has done to this point, but he also views it as another step in the process of making music.

“You do what you do because you have to,” he said. “This is a culmination, but not my final statement. Everything is a culmination, to a point, yet it can still be a stepping stone.”

With an album as well written and performed as this, the question of influences/comparisons is going to pop up.

“Hopefully my influences are indirect,” Rose said. “It’s important to reflect the influence but still find your own voice. The most important thing is to find your own voice. The influences will be there. Anyone who has ever written a song owes a debt to Bob Dylan.

“There are the main food groups of music: The Beatles, Neil Young, Dylan.”

Rose said that being classically trained has some measure of influence as well as his interest in music from all over the world.

“I don’t know if these things musically end up on the record,” he said. “But everything you’ve seen or heard influenced you. You ask yourself ‘How can I present this idea – this song – in the best way?

“A good breakfast or a good bottle of wine can have an influence on you.”

To that end, Rose is also aware of environment. One of the cuts (“Random Hollow Diesel Train”) on Gravity of Crow has some heavy political overtones (nearly camouflaged in dark humor).

“I am aware. I consider myself political, but I am not a political songwriter,” he said. “That was just something that welled up in me. I even surprised myself.

“That one showed up on the doorstep in a basket, crying.”

Rose is going to celebrate the official release of Gravity of Crow at Martyr’s on Lincoln Avenue.

“I love playing in Chicago. The rooms are good. This is a great music town,” he said. “There are so many types of rooms and so many different places to play.

“I am also very excited about this record. I hope people hear it and come out and see us live. We have a lot of fun when we play live,” he said. “We like to push things into different places to see what happens.”

— Paul Barile, chicagoartsandentertainment.com, January 2003