Wednesday, January 10, 2007
One of the big about faces last year was that people were really digging on rootsy, Americana again. Twangy sounds and foot stomping melodies really bubbled up to the surface. Pedal steel, harmonicas, jangled guitar noodling, Byrds-esque harmonies; lots of bands are trying to pull it off, but very few succeed in creating anything new. One that is doing it right (and is probably about to make a huge splash) is Trainwreck Riders. Their LP – Lonely Road Revival - is out on Alive Records, and despite the stereotypical rootsy title, this record is unpredictable and impossibly hard to fit into a generic category.
Right off the top, one of the biggest reasons this SF-quartet is so good is that they stretch the limits of what you’d expect from roots rock at every possible opportunity. Sure they have the slow burning, folky acoustic side, but they aren’t afraid to turn it up the heat and hit you in the mouth with some down and dirty punk and blues. From the opening guitar riff and simple cymbal tap of Through to the End, the band paves the way for Pete Frauenfelder and Andrew Kerwin to play off each other. They sound great together, but more importantly, they seem to know exactly when Pete’s vocals need complimenting, and when it’s best left up to his bluegrass, squeaky voice to carry the load.
The band jumps into Your Sister and Your Sister’s Friends, a feverish floor stomper, that channels the energy of some of the punk outfits the SF bay area is famous for, but instead of simple power chord guitar riffs, Trainwreck uses country-fried guitars to push the song along. It’s about now you should be really taking an interest in this record. Somehow it’s like everything you’ve loved before (uncle tupelo and early modest mouse for example), but at the same time, shockingly different.
From the old-time country goodness of Wine Stains, the big bass lines of In & Out of Love, to the harmonized balladry of To the Grave you feel at home listening to the record. Thoughts of leaving home for the open road and heartache run deep, as is expected, but let's be honest. That’s why you listen to this type of music. It’s the subtle risks and underlying energy the band delivers that is so refreshing and, for lack of a better way to describe it, kick-ass.
Not a note on this record seems too polished or too rehearsed and what could be perceived as a lack of focus, is actually why it’s so good. They keep you guessing, like tossing in a huge face-melting solo in the middle of In the Wake of it All or unleashing beautiful strings on the sincere ballad, To the Grave, but never leave you unsatisfied.
MP3:: In and Out of Love
MP3:: Christmas Time Blues
Video:: Christmas Time Blues