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Rusty T Band

A troubadour at rest: Russ Tillack of the Rusty T Band.

A troubadour at rest: Russ Tillack of the Rusty T Band.


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Russ Tillack of the Rusty T Band guides his group of troubadours by wielding an electric-acoustic ax with some wicked chops, as they journey through the wild world of rock ’n’ roll. Tillack is a calm man, and he regards the craft he has diligently refined over the years with a confident yet levelheaded realism, deeply respecting the freedom of music. Freedom is a staple for the assortment of musicians in the Rusty T Band, and Tillack explains that while he creates the rhythm and lyrics for his songs, the “music can go where it takes itself.”

Go, this band certainly does. With a mixture of blues, jazz, classic rock and perhaps a hint of country twang, the sounds created by this group are designed to grab the audience and make ’em move.

All according to plan, says Tillack. “I like to see people getting up and enjoying themselves.”

Their first album, That’s How It Usually Begins, is a compilation of songs performed live. It takes the listener through several different variations of music filled with the saxophone, harmonica, bass, drums and electric guitar, all strongly played by an array of local musicians who have gravitated to the Rusty T Band banner.

While the band is still young, only roving the local bars together for the last six months, the musicians in attendance certainly qualify as veterans of their trade. The lineup begins with Tillack on vocals and guitar. Musical director Mick Valentino also plays guitar. Martina Dayton works the bass and backup vocals. Rick Metz plays the saxophone. Jimmy Zavala wails on the harmonica. Brian Jenkins is usually on the drums. All of the performers have a history with other bands, either of local or of national fame.

Rusty has set the mark for their future higher than local performance, with plans for a West Coast tour during the latter part of this year, should recording go as planned.

“We’re not aiming at being a bar band,” says Tillack. “I would love to make this a business, make some money, and have fun playing music at the same time.”

There are some problems the band might face should they move in a more commercial direction. The musicians play in a freeform style, improvising as they work together rather than attempting to make each performance sound the same every night. The fact that some songs run on in length draws some apprehension from Tillack.

“We’d have to round down the music to under four minutes to format for radio,” he says.

With that goal specifically in mind, one band member, Zavala, is currently recording a portion of the album in Los Angeles to a shorter and more concise length, which he will send back to Tillack to record the vocals, and again Tillack seems apprehensive.

“I don’t know what my own song is gonna sound like,” he says.

Tillack is almost paternal in his protective nature of the band’s future, with his honest hope to “provide the band with a steady income.” Yet, the primary goal for the Rusty T Band is to keep playing for the next 20 or 30 years, enjoying the music and, of course, having some fun.