Mister Roper, the long-running songwriting and recording duo of Rick Schneider and Eric Squindo, make a sprightly and tender brand of folk/rock mixed up with a moody Americana of Biblical gravity and heft. It is, in other words, music right on topic in the land of Dylan and the Band; and it is written and executed with both reverence for tradition and the evergreen freshness of some quite capable true believers, helped out by a few A-list friends.
Mister Roper’s eponymous new CD begins with the jaunty, concise pot-stirrer “Sit Down, Kate,” which is elevated – as is much of this fine record – by the wispy organ play of local legend and Band-collaborator Professor Louie, who co-produced the record. But Schneider and Squindo don’t take long to introduce you to the other dimension of what they do. Track Two, Schneider’s “Take a Walk (Out in the Light)” is a two-chord soul-searcher that, without a single smack of a single drum, manages to elevate to the realm of the epic across its six moody, layered minutes.
Schneider and Squindo practice the subtle arts of folk narrative and folk symbolism, populating their songs with familiar, plainspoken language rich in evocative natural images and the universal personalities of the folk tradition. Through years on the circuit, both have evolved into earthy, confident and unself-conscious singers as they inhabit these timeless, yearning narratives.
The default vibe is spare, minimal and quiet, which only adds drama to such sonic interlopers as the slide-guitar-playing John Platania that haunts “Does It Hurt” and Professor Louie’s various subtle accents and atmospheres. Legendary rock drummer Gary Burke buoys three tracks here, and local scene stalwart Jason Sarubbi handles the bass with ease and taste, when required. But Mr. Roper unfailingly focuses the listener’s attention on the homely essence of the project – on the earthy, dual guitar-strumming and plaintive singing of Schneider and Squindo, who have stories to tell. Everything else is effortless and lovely folk milieu.
Mister Roper CD Release Party with the Jason Gisser Band, Thursday, October 9, 7:30 p.m., $10, Towne Crier Café, 379 Main Street, Beacon; www.townecrier.com.