Album Review

Root River Jam [Album Review]

My first up close listen to the music of Root River Jam was at our house concert with them last spring. I had seen the group play out at a few restaurants in town and was excited to hear them again in the intimate space of a living room.
I have to say I was blown away by what Root River Jam does when they’re playing original tunes in front of an engaged crowd, and loving every bit of it. At that house show – it was like a new band.
That same energy and love of what they do bursts through in their debut, self-titled album, Root River Jam. The first time I listened to the opening track, Wait Oh Wait, I was struck by how suddenly the ride had begun. There was no easing into what Root River Jam was offering. And then the licks at the end of the track sealed the deal. I was hooked.
If you’ve met frontman Dave Wilson, you know the kind of heart he pours into his music and the people around him. This album exudes that same spirit. Songs like Arco Freeway show the intention and care for craft that drives Dave’s songwriting, and Root River Jam as a whole.
Their version of Ashokan Farewell is a great example of the group’s ability to draw the listener into a moving, introspective experience. David Beyer, on violin, helps to pull listeners into the heart of such songs, but his fiddle lines are absolutely the icing on the cake for the “bluegrass” end of Root River Jam’s sounds.
From the swell of the bow on tracks like Arco Freeway to the punch of his solo on Don’t Let It Slip Away, Blake Bonde’s versatility as a bassist is more than apparent on this album.
And while Miles Johnston’s drumming is energetic and driving, it is absolutely precise. His additions are especially welcome on tracks such as Tears Like A River.
This album takes us through a variety of emotions and approaches, and there’s a little something for everyone. It’s fitting, as the group often describes themselves as a blend of many different styles including folk, rock, celtic, blues and jazz.
But Root River Jam, the album and the band, show some of the best of folk in Southeastern Minnesota. Dave sings about all of life – songs of celebration and of loss. The band’s name is even a reference to one of the major rivers in our region. And like much of the best folk music, it’s fun, and it’s good for dancing and singing with friends.
Root River Jam is also the result of a continuous spirit of collaboration within the group. “The oldest song is probably 6 or 7 years old. But they weren’t really complete,” Dave said as we spoke over a cup of coffee earlier this week. “The other guys in the group have really helped shape them into what they could be. It’s really a blessing to play with them.”
There’s even an appearance by local trombonist, John Sievers (The D’Sievers), on Dirty Martini, and it’s one of my personal favorite moments of the album.
But as for my personal favorite track? Leave This Town. There’s just something good about a folk song that manages to feel like the open road and a little bit of home at the same time.
The final track on the album, Start From the Beginning, is a great reminder that sometimes the beginning is the best place to start. And if this debut release is any indication, Root River Jam is just getting started.
I highly recommend picking up a copy of this album and listening to some of the best of Southeastern Minnesota wherever you go. Find your copy at or at their CD release show this weekend.
Root River Jam is:
Dave Wilson – guitar, vocals
Blake Bonde – upright bass
David Beyer – fiddle/violin
Miles Johnston – drums

Don’t forget to get out this weekend and support Root River Jam. Their CD release show will be at Kinney Creek Brewery on Saturday, March 25 from 5:30-9 pm.
Root River Jam CD Release Show
Saturday, March 25, 5:30-9 PM
Kinney Creek Brewery
1016 7th St NW, Rochester, Minnesota 55901

5:30pm a Discussion led by the MN Music Coalition.
Join Rochester area artists and music supporters for a social hour and dialogue on “How to Energize a Music Scene.”
6:45pm Music starts with Jailhouse Payback.
8:30pm Root River Jam takes the stage!