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By Written by Bradley Farberman
Collgian Staff
April 26,2004

Assembly of Dust Pearl Street March 22
Think "Music From Big Pink" or Bob Dylan's "Nashville Skyline:" a back porch dream where elder, country gentlemen step softly down dirt roads and able-bodied daughters glean remnants of the harvest. (Neil Young's seminal recording also comes to mind.)

In an affectedness not dissimilar to his forebears, Reid Genauer's craftsmanship invokes this dream; a unique romanticism, typically reserved for artists like Dylan or Young, infuses his work as he barrels forward as a songwriter.

"You're always standing on someone's shoulders," Genauer said. "It's how well you disguise it. How you augment it to add your own flavor." Following Genauer's departure from popular touring act Strangefolk, the Univeristy of Vermont alumnus formed his Assembly of Dust in 2001. The quintet, rounded out by Percy Hill gurus John Lecesse (bass) and Nate Wilson (keyboards), Groovechild graduate Adam Terrell (guitar) and Moon Boot Lover's Andy Herrick (drums), has taken giant steps since its inception. In its brief tenure, the group has packed clubs all along the East Coast, including New York City's Bowery Ballroom and Boston's Paradise Rock Club.

In March, the theater at the Garden played host to the fourth annual Jammy Awards where Genauer and the Assembly backed ex-Allman Brother Dickey Betts. The band ran through extended takes of "Blue Sky" and "Ramblin' Man." Following the Assembly's performance at Pearl Street last week, the members of the band spoke openly on a number of topics, including their collaboration with Betts. "We loved it, and he's a rock and roll hero," said Genauer. "It felt larger than life. It made me realize my drinks weren't as strong as I thought." "It made me realize I don't know how to party," Herrick said. Their on-stage rapport with Betts aside, Genauer lamented that live collaborations often feel forced. Unless, of course, Derek Trucks sits in. The guitar genius joined in at a New York date last year, lending his considerable talents to a blazing "Tavern Walker." "He's so proficient; it just felt natural," Genauer said.

Other collaborative highlights for the band include Genauer's turn with Phil Lesh and Friends ("Friend of the Devil"). And best of all, these one-off partnerships all occurred on-stage. The power and gravity of live music is not lost on Genauer and the Assembly. "When the drums start playing, and the music hits you, it's like an altered state," Genauer said. And, consequently, life without rock and roll gets lonely. "There was this six-month period when I wasn't playing music and I missed the songs," said Genauer, alluding to his exit from the Strangefolk in 2000. "I felt like I was away from a lover." Likewise, a short hiatus from life on the road can seem like ages. The group's performance at Pearl Street was their first in several weeks. "I feel like all the tunes are friends that I haven't seen in a long time," Herrick said. But a return to the live experience means more than a rendezvous with vintage companions. It is a chance to test out new material.

"Since we're creating new songs, it's so exciting to unleash them on the world," Genauer said. "You feel like you're pregnant with the idea." And as of this moment, it appears that the baby is Wilson's. Genauer and the pianist share authorship for the bulk of the Assembly's repertoire. "It's kind of interesting when Reid and I write," said Wilson. "You combine two different things, and you come up with something completely new." Wilson and Genauer also agreed that their songwriting cooperative has turned out tunes unlike anything they might have written for Percy Hill or Strangefolk, respectively. "Everyone's got their own musical genetics," Genauer said. "It's a unique outcome." A unique outcome is in debt to a wide range of influences, perhaps. Admittedly, Wilson's record collection is 99 percent jazz, and you can hear it in his playing. Often, the pianist's style owes more to Herbie Hancock or Les McCann than Steve Winwood or Richard Manuel. Wilson's jazz leanings aside, the Assembly has about as much in common with Charlie Parker as they do with the boy-band phenomenon. Make no mistake: The Assembly of Dust is an organic rock and roll combo, carrying the torch for groups like The Band and Traffic. And like those groups, the Assembly knows itself inside and out. The band boasts maturity beyond its years, as each member of the quintet had done time as a touring musician prior to his or her involvement in the Assembly.

"We've all done this for so many years," Herrick said. "Our communication is ridiculous." And while involvement in projects prior to the Assembly's inception might have hindered lesser musicians, this is not the case for Genauer and his cohorts. "We don't have any learning curve from previous bands," continued Herrick. "Just the communication." Herrick filled Moon Boot Lover's drum chair for four years; the experience readied him for his time with the Assembly. And the Assembly's time is now. Apart from a grueling tour schedule, the band is readying a live album and has plans to enter the studio soon. If its initial release is any indication, its forthcoming records will showcase earnest songwriting and solid musicianship, a marked departure from the evils of FM radio. "Time is a filter for crap," Genauer said. "And only the good stuff persists." Time should have its hands full trying to filter out the Assembly of Dust.