Rose Hill Drive: The Independent, San Francisco 10.22.08

For one night San Francisco was the rock central of the universe and Rose Hill Drive was the focal point.  The power-trio from Boulder, CO are currently promoting their new album Moon is the New Earth.  Spending a few years opening for bands like The Who has taught the boys a few lessons.  They’ve grown tighter and now work the stage like bona fide rock stars.  What’s so incredible about Rose Hill Drive is the live sound they produce.  It’s completely astounding that just 3 guys can create such gut wrenching rock, but these guys are the second coming of true Rock ‘n’ Roll.


Unfortunately the band’s greatest strength is also their greatest weakness.  Although they’ve produced two great albums, they don’t capture the group’s raw sound.  That is why to truly understand this group, you need to see them live.  Rose Hill Drive are brothers Jake and Daniel Sproul who play vocals/bass and guitar respectively along with Nate “The Foot” Barnes on drums.  Barnes and Jake Sproul are an incredibly commanding rhythm section and Daniel Sproul has serious chops on the guitar.  Their live show looks a bit like this: Barnes, who looks almost bored, playing fills that boggle the mind, Jake’s hands tackling the bass with blurred fingers as he sings soulfully into the microphone and then there’s Daniel Sproul.  I haven’t heard many contemporary guitar players who can shred the way Daniel Sproul does.  While he may not (yet) have the distinctive style legends like Page, Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan did, he really understands into what made them so great.  He’s no mere imitator.


If anything negative could be said about the group’s show is that, overall, their earlier material, like “Cool Cody” and 10 minute jam “Reptilian Blues”, resonated better on stage but current single “Sneak Out” was a highlight of the night.  They also packed their set with a few stellar covers.  Since their beginnings they have been constantly likened to Cream, much to the band’s chagrin, but playing a spot on version of “Sunshine of Your Love” definitely isn’t helping.  They also played an incredibly soulful version of Zeppelin’s “Communication Breakdown.”  The most impressive cover, however, was show closer “Message to Love.”  Not only is it from the nearly uncoverable Jimi Hendrix but it comes from his most distinctive album, the live Band of Gypsys.  Daniel took the vocals for this one, as he also managed to channel Hendrix in his bellowing solos.  What’s so distinctive about their ability to cover classic tunes isn’t that they do a great job of recreating the original sound, it’s that they don’t feel like covers.  You’re not missing Robert Plant’s wailing vocals on “Communication Breakdown,” you’re enjoying the group up on stage.


Rose Hill Drive are a very commanding group on stage and play classic, straight forward rock.  They’re not flashy and they don’t have any tricks up their sleeves.  What you see is what you get.  And that is more than enough.  These guys sound like they’ve been playing for decades, not a measly couple of years.  Their sound is definitely ahead of their songwriting abilities, but they’re songs are still incredibly enjoyable – even on record.   As many have said, this is a band to watch and I think that is still true.  With two albums under their belts I don’t think they’re even close to their full potential – and that’s something to be excited about. 

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