“Glory Bound” – The Grahams

4 stars (out of 5)

0

The Grahams - 'Glory Bound' - TitleMaybe this is a reappraisal that’s long overdue. We live in a society that’s so dominated by the car and its implications of individualism that we now have a long tradition of road and car songs and there’s even a drive-time genre. The railroads in the USA, which featured so heavily in popular culture during the nineteenth century have now been largely replaced by the highways. That is, until Americana duo The Grahams (Alyssa and Doug) decided to ride the rails and re-evaluate the role played by the network in stitching together the tapestry of American music. The time they spent on this project led not only to their second album, the marvellously eclectic “Glory Bound”, but also a documentary film, “Rattle the Hocks”, which is featured at the UK 2015 Raindance film festival.

The album opens with the title track, easing in with acoustic guitar before a ridiculously catchy guitar hook comes in to drive the song forward (along with a huge backbeat in the chorus) with a train-evoking rhythm, which is then followed by the equally raucous Southern boogie shuffle of “Gambling Girl”. Both songs feature Alyssa’s rock voice, but as the album progresses it becomes clear that she can work in a whole range of vocal styles, from the raw emotion in the chorus of “Lay Me Down” to the high, clear flute-like tones of “The Spinner”; it’s quite a set of vocal performances. There’s a wide variety of Americana styles from the folk song feel of the elegaic “Blow Wind Blow” to the bluegrass-styled “Kansas City”, which is short, sharp and sweet but packs everything in including sparkling guitar and fiddle solos and the simple spiritual sound of “Mama”.

The big backbeat reasserts itself on “Griggstown” and the closing song “The Promised Land”, driving the first song on to its destination and the second on a seemingly futile quest while “Biscuits” has a honky-tonk feel and a nice line in double entendre lyrics; all good clean fun. Which leaves “The Wild One”; it’s placed right in the centre of the album and this has to be the single, lead track or whatever radio’s calling it this week. From the moment the organ kicks in you know this is pure musical gold (with a nod in the direction of The Band) as the arrangement complements the tragic but ultimately uplifting story which unfolds. Everything about the structure of the song helps to emphasise the message, including a chorus which is absolutely irresistible; there’s even a “Running on Empty” reference in the first line, unless it’s a huge coincidence. There’s nothing about this song that you would ever want to change.

“Glory Bound” is a great album and it’s made for people who actually want to listen to albums. It has a theme, it starts and finishes on railroad songs, visits places with railroad connections and places an absolute gem of a song right in the centre of the collection. This is one train you really don’t want to miss.

Out on Friday October 2 on 12South Records (GRAM003).