Rugby Road: III
Philadelphia-based Rugby Road have been playing together for over 25 years—in the same trio configuration the whole time, impressively—but their studio output has only consisted of two full-length LPs and, now, a new four-track EP, III, their first release since 2011’s Different Degrees. The group, which gained notoriety with their frequent appearances at famed New York jam club Wetlands, has spent the ensuing years playing regular shows together while pursuing lives outside of music, staying somewhat under the radar before their return to the studio with III. The brief collection highlights a mature songwriting and playing style cultivated during almost three decades together, kicking off with opening track “Back to You,” which recalls classic Springsteen in its melodies and harmonies, complemented by Kenny Kearns’ earthen vocals and Derek Smith’s full guitar. The tune also explores jammier territory with an almost Latin groove that kicks in near the end—powered by Rich Pruett’s punchy drums—setting the stage or the rest of the album, which serves as a quick refresher on the talent and range of these guys. Following track “Nobody (Needs to Know)” gives Smith full rein for an extended solo over a well-established groove, while “Spoken For” adds a touch of slow-burn grunge to the mix. Closing tune “Give It Away” rounds out the EP with a lilting pace that gives way to soaring guitar that seems to lead the listener toward the horizon before the album’s soft final landing.