The Rough & Tumble aren’t casual road dogs, but they aren’t letting on, either. From their upbeat, commanding stage presence and sharp banter, to their earworm-inducing melodies and heartstring lyrics, this dumpster-folk/thriftstore Americana duo refuses to bring the haggard road-worn stereotype to their audience-- even though they’ve earned it. In fact, The Rough & Tumble have been elbowing out of most stereotypes.
The Rough & Tumble, a dynamic duo comprised of Mallory Graham and Scott Tyler, have been captivating audiences with their unique blend of dumpster-folk and thrift store-Americana for over a decade. The Pennsylvania-born Graham and Central California's Tyler have a knack for weaving together elements of joy, sorrow, comedy, and drama in their music, leaving audiences on the edge of their seats. In May 2023, the band released Only This Far, a 12-song collection drawing from the highs and lows of their lived experiences over all those years.
With a smorgasbord of eclectic instruments and a stunning blend of harmonious vocals, the band has crafted a work of profound emotional depth with this new album. The songs are a symphony of raw, unbridled emotion, weaving together tales of love, loss, and longing with a deft touch that could only be crafted by these two songwriters who have quite literally lived on the road for the better part of a decade. It’s a true testament to the band's unwavering dedication to their craft.
Standout track "Ain't That The Way" is a shining anthem of perseverance; a rousing call to action for those who have been told their best isn't good enough. With its powerful gang vocals and uplifting message, this song is a triumph of the human spirit, a celebration of the resilience and determination that lies within us all. On the other side of the coin, "God of War" — a semi-autobiographical sketch by Graham — delves adeptly into heavier subject matter. It’s a searing exploration in the complexities of identity, a stark and unflinching look at the dark underbelly of modern American culture. With its haunting lyrics and evocative soundscape, this song paints a vivid portrait of a nation at war with itself, grappling with the legacy of its past and the weight of its responsibilities. The band’s ability to seamlessly navigate the contrasts between bold, unflinching balladry and sunny-day sing-alongs makes Only This Far quite the enriching listen.
“There are plenty of acoustic songscapes that will pleasure fans of the likes of Nanci Griffith... while other songs have an elegance and emotional craft to the lyrics which stand shoulder to shoulder with master songsmiths such as Gretchen Peters or Guy Clark."
"...they sure as hell are peaking high and mighty in this music and songwriting game."
---Brian Carroll, Red Line Roots, September 2019
Writing and performing together since 2007, Mallory Graham and Scott Tyler inevitably formed The Rough & Tumble in 2011 as the friends turned into bandmates. In 2015, after a bad Nashville landlord left them without heat for twelve days during an ice storm, the bandmates-turning-spouses decided to hit the road. They sold everything they could, bought a sixteen-foot camper (despite the warning of their families and the lot salesman), packed up their instruments, their dogs, and a couple of small trinkets shaped like elephants and mice that they couldn’t part with, and hit the road. They’ve been touring relentlessly ever since with their two 100 lb rescue dogs, Mud Puddle and Magpie Mae, in spite of multiple burnt up axles, busted tires, and consistent water leaks. It’s these years and miles and experiences that have culminated in the songs of Only This Far — arguably the band’s most fully-formed work to-date.
Overall, Only This Far is a powerful and thought-provoking collection of songs that reflects The Rough & Tumble's diverse influences and experiences. The band's remarkable storytelling ability is on full display here, serving as a timely beacon of hope in a world in dire need of just that. With its powerful lyrics, emotive vocals, and evocative overtones, this is an album that will resonate with listeners long after the final notes have faded away.
It takes determination and stamina to live this hardscrabble lifestyle, but not as much as it takes for them to stay still. With some luck and old-fashioned working together, you’ll be able to see The Rough & Tumble pull their camper into your town to do what they do best; speaking up until they’re heard. We suggest you do the same.
“I laughed my ass off, I cried buckets. By the third song I realized, I need to pace myself!”
---Aubrey, Reidsville, NC
"Wow, what an appealing package. High-quality originals in all sorts of traditional veins, from haunting ballads to stomping, screaming folk anthems. All performed with expert, polished musicianship and flawless ensemble. Amazing array of instruments (a few you will never have encountered before, I bet!), and attention to musical detail, without a trace of pretension or preciousness. The vocals are a pleasure – natural yet perfectly executed. The whole effect seems fun and blithely effortless."
---M. McLeod, Empty Nest Concerts,