Tao Rodriguez-Seeger has the roots. Heck, he's Pete Seeger's grandson. But thankfully, the Hudson Valley-to-New Orleans transplant isn't precious about it. Too many new, younger old-time acts handle their songs like they're Christmas ornaments, shiny and fragile. What's worse, they apply the Berklee chops and replace all the mystery with antiseptic mastery. Not so on the debut release by the Tao Seeger Band.
¡Rise and Bloom! (co-produced by Jono Manson and featuring fellow travelers Laura Cortese, Jacob Silver, Robin MacMillan, and Jason Crosby, along with special guests such as John Popper and Jim Weider) is built on bedrock stuff like "Wild Bill Jones" and "Twelve Gates to the City," but Rodriguez-Seeger folk-processes the snot out of such chestnuts. If his cussing on "Reuben's Train" seems gratuitous, his good humor on "Train on the Island" is beyond winning. What's more, this record rocks, and not euphemistically. The guitars are plugged in and loud, making the opening salvo of "Sail Away Ladies" roar instead of romp.
The 38-year-old erstwhile Mammal does justice to his lineage with Pete's "Bring 'Em Home" and "Well May the World Go" (in Spanish and English), but the heart of this fine, gritty effort is the gentle, too-true take on the then-and-current economy, Jim Garland's "I Don't Want Your Millions, Mister." The hushed aspects of the song contrast with the big thunder elsewhere and make the message—I want my job, not a handout—even clearer. Rodriguez-Seeger plays Kingston's Basement on January 7. www.taorodriguezseeger.com.