Rookin Present ‘If I Didn’t Know You By Now’

Brooklyn’s Rookin, a five piece who cribbed their name from Louisiana folklore, has humble origins as a college class project about the Civil War, but mushroomed into something much grander. The band’s ambition to conjure up their own distinctive brand of Americana music, fusing soul, folk, and rock into a compelling package, is likely a product of the cross-section of personal experiences fueling the band’s creativity. The five members come from various locales in the country, ranging from Massachusetts to Kentucky and all the way to California, and their strong friendship enriches their already fine single “If I Didn’t Know You by Now”. The song is taken from their forthcoming debut Unionism, an album with sweeping ambition to burn as it focuses on taking listeners on an extensive imaginative journey through American history while still making a relevant statement about our modern life.


The song has a muted opening revolving around acoustic guitar and Adam Horn’s vocals. His voice is potent, evocative, and exhibits surprising range when the track shifts into a higher gear around the one minute mark. His obvious care with phrasing makes the fine lyrical content land with a stronger impact. Horn’s upper register voice is every bit as effective as the lower end of the scale – he brings an emotional lift to those passages well matched with the glittering musical accompaniment and never sounds like he’s straining for effect. Another notable quality of his singing is the canny instincts he demonstrates for laying his vocals down in all the right places and looking to complement the musical arrangement rather than attempting to lead the way. It underlines how Rookin is a cohesive unit, a true band, rather than some glorified vehicle for a single performer.

The aforementioned lyrical content is eloquent, yet conversational and accessible, and shares the musical arrangement’s ear for lean and economical expression. There isn’t any wasted motions, no fat begging to be trimmed from the writing. Instead, everything has a satisfying inevitability. The song is born out of an organic moment, never contrived, and follows an emotional path that pays off handsomely for any listener. Horn’s voice falls and rises at all the right points to emphasize the stark, controlled beauty of the writing.

There’s more than just acoustic guitar making its presence felt musically. Listeners are treated to an artful dollop of pedal steel worked into the piece, never obtrusively presented, and it is clear after even a single listen that guitarists Benjamin Naddaff-Hafrey and Parsa Kamali work exceptionally well together. There’s a light contribution from keyboards as well, merely as color, thanks to Hafrey and the rhythm section of drummer Ethan Schneider and bassist Socrates Crus provide the track with a subtle yet solid foundation. Rookin are well on their way towards creating a niche for themselves in the Americana scene, something familiar yet wholly unique, and stamped with personality and depth you normally don’t encounter from emerging bands. Their artistic vision is uncluttered and fixed on specific goals that “If I Didn’t Know You by Now” readily reaches.


Gwen Waggoner