Adrenaline Rush: The Road is Gold – review
I first heard Rush Sturges‘ album, The Road is Gold (goes by Adrenaline Rush when he’s on the mic/out of the water) while riding in the backseat of a truck through the flats of western Oregon after a ten-day rafting adventure on the Middle Fork of the Salmon where the river peaked higher than it had been in over a decade. My heart was heavy at the thought of leaving so many wonderful friends behind and returning to the work-a-day, and Rush’s literate take on life as a pro kayaker (and overall extremist) was exactly the sound track I think we all needed to process all our highs and lows.
My buddy Teebo poured a few shots of whiskey in my tea, and I sat back to absorb one of the most intriguing albums I’ve heard in years. I’m no hip-hop connoisseur: I’m an alt-folk girl who writes songs in living rooms with string players and plays outdoor festivals. But really good music has a way of freeing it self from the shackles of its own genre and connecting with people no matter what they are used to listening to.
To begin, this is no homespun deal. Sturges has spent much of his life exploring all corners of the planet as a filmmaker and boater, and it seems he might have been collecting sounds and songs in addition to footage along the way. At times, the words plow forward at 90 miles an hour, without time to stop for acoustic flourishes: instead psychological excavations and cinematic quests take the drivers seat. At other times, this is a Rhythm of the Saints-esque soundscape set to literate raps, bringing the listener inside the heart and mind of a sometimes crazed, but always intriguing white guy reaching for enlightenment and self-actualization.
“Mamma Africa,” for example, is at once portrait of injustice, and an ode to adventure.
Life has a different price, because it’s underfunded
Gorillas still run shit, corruption abundant, prison’s a dungeon
And life equals suffering
Underneath all of this stress and sadness, we gather the strength to navigate Hell’s Passage.
The album can also be appreciated as homage to whitewater kayaking, though I think he might only say the b-word one time. Those who live for water and waves will connect with the way the song “The River” manages to encapsulate the wonder, obsession, and desire to conquer, but in the end, a continuum of respect for a river’s power; offering up a fresh take on the man v. nature theme.
The river sings like a symphony
Whispers soft hymns as I sit here listening
She can murder you, she can make you stronger
This goddess is also known as a monster
And when unleashed, she can eat you in a second
Have you reaching for the light as you scream to get a breath in
And if it goes and all hope wastes away
May your soul breathe forever on the crest of these waves.
Where some hip-hop artists are political without enough poetry (the constant oppression is oppressive!), others move in the opposite direction with laughable levels of self-aggrandization and/or blatant misogyny. Adrenalin Rush mostly avoids both these traps and instead delivers sketchbook of images and ruminations on his travels and life that are at the same time dramatic and authentic. He’s a small-town kid with a global perspective, sometimes exploring darkness, but continually finding breath and light through the veracity of his words. Ultimately, he uses art to invent life: the record opens with his words “I make believe my reality, then paint the dream.”