“Fire on the Rails” – Track Dogs

4 stars (out of 5)

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This is the second time Track Dogs have crossed our paths at Riot Towers and it was always going to be an interesting experience. The line-up of Garrett Wall, Dave Mooney, Howard Brown & Robbie K. Jones (two Irishmen, an Englishman and an American, which sounds like it’s just waiting for a punchline) is resident in Madrid and created a bit of a buzz across European festivals last summer. There’s a reason for that; they’re great players across a range of instruments and three of them take lead vocals on the album as well as creating some lovely vocal harmonies; and that’s before we even start on the quality of the songwriting.

From the 2018 album “Kansas City Out Groove” we learned that you can rely on Track Dogs for esoteric influences and exotic arrangements; “Fire on the Rails” doesn’t disappoint. In addition to the band’s own extensive line-up of instruments, guest artists supply banjo, fiddle, mandolin and strings to create different textures and tonal colour. The net for the esoteric influences seems to have widened since their previous album; “Better Off On Your Own” is driven along by African rhythms and punctuated by a chorus that leans so heavily on the off beat that it’s firmly into reggae territory. The trumpet’s in evidence pretty much throughout the album, evoking South American sounds, muted melancholy and even hinting at easy listening at times on, for example, “On the Last Night”, which subversively creates a deliberately unthreatening arrangement for a song about the apocalypse.

There’s a tribute to Freddy Mercury in “And the Piano Sings” which has the catchiest of catchy hooks and a perfectly-formed trumpet solo, but the band save the best of the left-field inventiveness for the album’s final song. “All Clapped Out” (a play on words) is a cappella throughout with all the percussion coming from handclaps and footstomps and the harmony from the four voices. It’s novel and interesting and it rounds off the album perfectly.

“Fire on the Rails” continues where “Kansas City Out Groove” left off; packed with invention, unusual textures, hooks and memorable melodies. It’s out on in the UK on Friday January 24th on Mondegreen Records (MGR0120).