Roll On displays Ernie’s ability to tackle weighty themes with humor and a sharp eye for the details that make his songs humane and compelling. Influenced by everyone from Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter to Nashville humorist and songwriter Todd Snider, Ernie wrote a set of songs for Roll On that address the commercialization and alienation of American life. One song, “Dystopian Dreams,” makes explicit the looming political and social crises that characterize American life in 2019, but he gives the song an optimistic spin that comes from his new role as father to a young daughter, and as a family man who likes to spend time at home when he’s not on the road doing what musicians do to make a living.
It’s a diverse set of songs, with the opener, “Do It for Love,” describing a normal day in the life of a city-dweller and turning it into an affirmation of the mundane joys of taking the train and shopping at your favorite record store. The Roy Orbison-style song “One Day of Life” folds in everyday hassles like traffic jams and checkout lines, but Ernie remains happy about the transitory joys of life.