Music is one of those things that, no matter how magnificently written, arranged, performed and produced, will always be subject to abject interpretation. Which is why those who can master the fine art of establishing their chosen genre into the much-sought-after world of “crossover” essentially have achieved the Holy Grail of success.
So, it’s fair to say that Sol Driven Train has that puppy safely tucked away in their formidable cache of accomplishments.
The first track on this 5-track EP is the title track (in the tradtion, that as Todd Rundgren pointed out, of Motown),“Watermelon.” Beginning with a nice, easy groove nestled in a subtle funkiness – that gets you doing that involuntary little head-bob thing – it lets you know before you hear verse one, this is a song you’re gonna like. The austere, compact spectrum of instrumentation perfectly complements the very tasty vocals, as the tune begins a sojourn that culminates with a rap-scented changeup to close it out.
Track 2 is the impishly playful “Vampire.” I really like songs such as this one, beginning with a samba soaked bass line that has a hint of mariachi and old-world overtones of accordion tossed in for good measure. It’s all Sol Driven Train, but it does remind me – albeit 20 years removed – of Chapel Hill’s fabled Squirrel Nut Zippers’ “Hell,” only much better and without the annoying clutter of overproduction.
Track 3 explodes out of your speakers with a no-bonesabout-it, hardcore, old-skool, lead-snare drum steam-enginetrain cadence, and wrapped up in “if that ain’t country, I’ll kiss your grits” pickin’ … and approprately
enough, it’s entitled “Romp.” Music is all too often so deep and ethereal and depressing; this would be a textbook example of “antonym” to that affect.
Next to last on this neat little EP, “Consume” examines the fringe of paranoia in a tune that reminds one of Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention and The Tubes in their creative heydays. The neat trick to a well-written jam tune is losing the structure in the jam part; making it sound like it’s all thrown together on the fly. But it’s got some tasty fret burners laced in all the nifty syncopation. As with all the tracks on this CD, it’s just really well arranged and produced. The recurring thought while listening to this track (and, really, all of them) is, “These guys are from my state? Seriously? Chucktown and everything? Wow.”
And of course, to throw you completely off kilter, the final track “For Old Time’s Sake” immediately conjures up tradtional churchy blues and hymnal charts. Great simplicity wrapped in austere vocal harmonies that just sound so much bigger than they are, with a mixture of N’awlins tribute and Southern Baptist blues in a ballet of horns and piano riffs. A nice, slow, reflective ending to a really eclectic musical ride, perhaps it helps to be a native of the lowcountry, or the Palmetto State, or the Old South.
Or maybe it’s just great music. Yeah, that’s probably it.
And after all … it would explain all these black seeds and green rinds laying around my stereo in a pool of sticky, sweet musical refreshment.
There are a bunch of reasons it would make a great Christmas gift, too, kids. It’s good, it’s affordable, and it’s available. Wraps easily, mails perfectly. Brings smiles to the face and soothes the soul.
Brian M. Howle