Eric Brace and Last Train Home: Six Songs
Jump up and down and cry Hosannah!, what a red letter day to have this album drop in my lap. If you know Last Train Home already I’m sure you’ll need no encouraging to grab this tidying up operation: ‘Six Songs’ is twenty five minutes worth of music featured in their live sets but never previously recorded. This is broader than ‘Americana’; this is popular music of the last century rounded up, spruced up and played with gusto, joy and immense skill. There’s more to feast on here than in half a shelf of less adventurous music.
Three original songs, ‘My Baby Just Cares For Me’ (with original lyric ), Gilbert Becaud’s ‘What Now My Love’ and Johnny Mercer’s ‘Autumn Leaves’ make up the set list ; in the hands of these guys, that’s opportunity to croon, to swing, to rock, to drop in a bit of dixie jazz and to string the whole thing together like it’s the most natural thing in the world. Opening quietly with ‘Always Raining on My Street’, a bluesy country thing with swooping pedal steel and a cheeky quote from ‘Listen to the Sound of the Pouring Rain’ in the guitar solo, ‘Soul Parking’ comes next and ups the ante a bit with a rather REM-like band sound. It’s the cover of ‘My Baby Just Cares For Me’ that really opens the eyes and shows just how wondrous this band are. Nina Simone’s version is so deeply familiar – and deeply loved – it comes as a surprise to be won over by a version that sounds like Gene Kelly skipping down the street. This swings joyfully, and Eric Brace’s warm, relaxed vocals sit just right on top of it all. Kevin Cordt creates all manner of wondrously jazzy magic on his trumpet and I would just love it if this version was paired with Nina Simone’s and played alternately on radio stations.
After that, you feel ready for anything; the slow, swinging croon of ‘What Now My Love’ is spliced with a prolonged closing section featuring trumpet and guitars conjuring images of some lost romantic world redolent of 1950s movies. ‘Big Fish’ is the star track; this sort of exuberance sounds like chasing the girl you fancy at the saturday dance, not sitting under the old oak tree hoping to catch your big fish, but it just sounds great, irresistibly singalong, rockabilly plus a whole load of extra musical fun. And finally, ‘Autumn Leaves’ opens with an incongrously heavy rock intro before Eric Brace’s warm voice comes in and the band back off slightly whilst keeping up with a rocking drive that pushes the whole thing along. Somewhere I read that Last Train Home produced music for grown-ups. Just so; there’s more great music out there than just the genre you think you’re into and these guys have made a great job of stitching it all together. Love it, love it, love it.
Last Train Home are on tour this summer with The Red Beet Records East Nashville Revue info and dates here.
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