February 07, 2020

BY TOM NETHERLAND | SPECIAL TO THE HERALD COURIER

Chameleonic Dustbowl Revival defy genre categorization like Super Bowl-winning quarterback Patrick Mahomes defies defenders.

Now you hear them. Blink. And off they go into another direction.

But, oh, what sounds to hear. Settle in for the show when whirlwind Dustbowl Revival spin to the stage of the Paramount Center for the Arts in Bristol, Tennessee on Saturday. Windy City folk band extraordinaire Birds of Chicago serve as the show’s openers.

“Right now, I hear music that is something new,” said Zach Lupetin, founder of Dustbowl Revival.

They’ve been called everything: Dustbowl’s a rock band with acoustic instruments. Dustbowl’s an Americana band with horns. Dustbowl hints of bluegrass and rock and soul.

“It’s almost beyond my capacity to comprehend what it really is,” Lupetin, 34, said. “The songs may start with a simple folk or soul sound, but they blossom into something much larger.”

Carousel of sounds intact, Dustbowl Revival’s new album, “Is It You, Is It Me” released to much fanfare last week. A floral arrangement as vivid as a rainbow, new songs canvas arenas of rhythm and soul in terms of music.

Dustbowl Revival sound like a party one craves to attend.

“We’re trying stuff we’ve never tried before,” Lupetin said last week by phone from his home in Los Angeles. “It’s this big animated orchestral rock ’n’ roll thing.”

Lupetin formed Dustbowl Revival in 2007. He took out an ad on Craigslist. Simple start to a band that his imagination did not fathom at the time.

“I just wanted to play around different bars and saloons in L.A., have fun with friends,” Lupetin said. “I wanted to bring older music to new audiences.”

Mission accomplished. Past albums cobbled with their latest, Dustbowl Revival borrow big band aspects from the 1940s, swirl with soul from the 60s, fuel on rock bombast of the 70s. Tied with lyrics as diverse as folk-driven social conscience messages to party hardy odes, Dustbowl fuse sounds rarely brought together as one.

“It’s really up to us to create the music we want to hear in the world,” Lupetin said. “You create the music you want to hear, and maybe it hasn’t been done yet.”

For instance, they combine synthesizers with an autoharp on their new album. On occasion, party anthem melodies contain meaty lyrics of serious note. Audiences may well find themselves dancing madly to a tune that’s about stage fright.

“That started with the new album’s opening track, ‘Dreaming,’ that this stage fright is almost killing him every night,” Lupetin said. “It’s the imposter syndrome. No matter how big the stage or how many people we’re in front of, am I good enough? Am I worthy to be here?”

Dustbowl Revival do not qualify as a neat and tidy band. Some tried to squeeze them into bluegrass. Didn’t fit. Likewise folk or what’s termed Americana. Too limiting. Soul? They’re not James Brown. Rock? Pop? They’re neither Pearl Jam nor The Beatles.

“We’ve never wanted to be pigeonholed into one genre or style,” Lupetin said. “We’ve never really belonged anywhere. We want to transcend genres.”

That’s worked. For the past decade, Dustbowl Revival’s presence on the music scene indicates that they’ve earned their place as a band on a steady run upward. Rolling Stone loves them. Fans flock to and dance wildly with them.

But there’s more than steady acclaim and tickets sold. There’s an upper echelon reserved to a rarefied few.

“If we want to be in the pantheon with our heroes — Bill Withers, the Rolling Stones — it’s that your music belongs,” Lupetin said. “That takes time.”