Wooden Shjips / Moon Duo mastermind Ripley Johnson has knocked out three Rose City Band LPs in as many years — and they just seem to be getting better, as Johnson refines and perfects his approach. On the marvelously mellow Earth Trip, the primary touchstones remain the Dead and Neil Young. Not exactly unique influences, but Ripley is a master at finding new and interesting things to do with age-old ingredients: a handful of lazily strummed chords, lightly fried pedal steel, tasty-but-never-flashy guitar work. Wide open spaces, lonely places. “Silver Roses” kicks things off in fine fashion, like Mazzy Star covering “Helpless,” followed up nicely by “In The Rain,” which finds the sweet spot between downcast melancholy and pure breeziness. Throughout the album’s eight tracks, Johnson’s solos are always on point, often drifting into Garcia-like zones without ever slipping into pointless idolatry. He’s developed into a guitarist who rarely takes a wrong step, minimal, moody, and lovely. Earth Trip doesn’t reinvent the wheel — it’s just a beautiful wheel that will almost certainly take you where you want to go. | t wilcox
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