Roots is an interesting and fun album just on the merits of spinning in the CD player. But on closer inspection when the listener finds out it was literally created with a one-man band and that the one man—Liam Purcell—wrote all but one song (he co-wrote the other), it becomes an even more impressive piece of work.
The “band” is Liam Purcell & Cane Mill Road. The name may throw some listeners as the group was originally formed by young teenage friends Purcell, Casey Lewis and Trey Wellington as Cane Mill Road. They played extensively at big venues and had radio success, earning the IBMA Momentum “Band of the Year” in 2019.
However, the core went their separate ways to college the next year. Purcell, now a student at the Berklee College of Music, retained the band name with idea of pulling in new members and then the pandemic hit.
Determined to continue making music, he took eight songs he’d written and another he co-wrote with Lewis to create a solo album recorded at his home studio. He played all the instruments and did all the vocals.
Among the best cuts on the album are “Flames” and the title track “Roots.” “Born a Cowboy,” the effort with Lewis, is a fun song and includes such a great lyric: “I was born a cowboy and raised a hippie” that it is impossible not to like. The last song, “Carry You with Me” features a guest vocalist, Mallory Blackwood, and offers a strong finish.
Roots was strong out of the gate, debuting at No. 6 on the Billboard Bluegrass chart. Purcell, now a veteran of the industry before his 21st birthday, has raised the bar of expectations for himself and the band moving forward.
The only disappointment to find here is that the CD ends too soon at nine songs. However, it does adhere to the old adage of “leave them wanting more.”