We’ve reviewed a couple of Track Dogs albums in the last few years, “Kansas City Out Groove” and “Fire on the Rails” and we’ve always been impressed by the breadth of the influences they incorporate into their writing and playing – esoteric is very much an understatement. This multi-national band comprising Garrett Wall, Dave Mooney, Howard Brown & Robbie K. Jones is also multi-instrumental and their vocal harmonies are outstanding. They were quite firmly on the MusicRiot ‘to watch’ list for 2020 before COVID came along. Looking at Garrett Wall’s list of festivals they’re going to miss, we think we would have caught them somewhere:

Performing at  – Music on the Marr!!

We were so looking forward to playing this northern festival on Castle Carrock Marr as we’d been invited in 2019 right after our debut Towersey concert. Lovely folks and it was sure to be a lovely weekend close to the Lake District.

Performing at – Beardy Festival

We’d wanted to play this festival since we’d heard about it so to be finally booked and then not be able to travel, with our flights paid for and everything…to put it mildly, we were gutted. At least the festival was one of the few events to actually take place this year, bravo for them and see you in 2021!

 

Performing at – Broadstairs Folk Week

This would have been our second time playing this wonderful Kent coastal festival and it was sure to be the highlight of the late summer. We have so many friends in Kent we were planning camping trips with our families and lashings of ginger beer and scones with clotted cream…alas, it wasn’t to be.

Performing at – Gate to Southwell

This early June festival near Nottingham was another new festival for us and one of our first bookings of 2020 so we were very excited to meet and play for new audiences.

Our Irish tour

Playing Ireland is as much about homecoming as it is about touring. This year has been heartbreaking for most artists and the whole industry. So, we could all do with recharging the emotional batteries too. Here’s to the roaring 2020’s. If the public comes with the same gusto as the bands will, it aims to be a bright future.

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).

Allan reviewed the Track Dogs album “Kansas City Out Groove” in the summer of this year and he was impressed. The album’s a glorious mixture of musical styles and influences stitched together in the way that only the most accomplished of musicians can do convincingly. One of our great regrets is that we couldn’t get someone out to a live performance on their UK tour. We’ll definitely be there next time. We were more than pleased when they agreed to share some of their UK tour discoveries with us and, obviously, with you. Here we go:

 

The Dark Horse – 7a Kingsmead Square, Bath

Howard and Garrett discovered this place after our recent Chapel Arts gig and it was the perfect wind-down; fantastic selection of rums and cheese board to boot, low lighting and comfy, what more could you ask for?

 

 

Scones and Clotted Cream aboard the Edith May Barge in Lower Halstow, Kent

Apart from loving to play concerts below decks on this 100-year-old Thames sailing barge, they do the best scones with cream. The barge was even featured in the Wonder Woman movie and is truly a step back in time. Well worth the visit.

 

The Floating Coffee company – breakfast barge in Birmingham just off Brindley Place

A full English is on every touring band’s priority list and this place was one of the best we’ve found. We even ended up selling some merch to the people sitting next to us who happened to be from Kansas City. As you can see, we love all things barges! 

Parmo (Teeside Parmesan), Smith’s Arms, Carlton                                                                                                              

It’s a chicken-fried steak (breaded fillet) with bechamel thing that is cheap but enormous and filling, and typical to Yorkshire. It’ll cure what ails you, for a few days. If you’re in North Yorkshire, just ask. It seems everyone has their own take on it, but they all seem to agree; there’s never any Parmesan cheese involved.  

10:50 FROM VICTORIA Micropub, Strood

Built in a bridge arch under the very tracks of the 10:50 train from Victoria. Ciders and Cask Ales including their own “Ten Fifty” house brew. Great patio! It’s a laid-back urban oasis. It feels like you’re in your neighbours back yard – no TVs or fruit machines. Not intrigued enough? Ask about the folks chillin’ a few arches over.

There are a lot of things that go a long way to making a great record, in my humble, and a couple of them are great musicianship (controversial, but I include singing in that) and a sense of joy; this album has both of those in abundance. Track Dogs (the name’s taken from the denizens of the deeps of the New York subway) is Garrett Wall, Dave Mooney, Howard Brown and Robbie K Jones (two Irishmen, an Englishman and an American) who met up in Madrid. You might expect a mashing of influences, but “Kansas City Out Groove” goes way further than that. It fuses reggae, string band arrangements, Spaghetti Western and jazz and even hints of pop.

There’s a rare combination of four great players who also have superb voices, creating stunning individual vocal performances and the almost inevitable perfect harmonies. So where do you even begin to start picking out favourites? The Latin trumpet and rhythms and the nailed-on harmonies of the opener, “The Deep End” set the scene nicely, the lead vocal having more than a suggestion of our great British blues and soul hero, Aynsley Lister, and the hundreds and thousands come with the trumpet solo doubling up to two horns as the song plays out.

And from there on in, anything can happen. My personal highlights are the midtempo “Find Me a Rose”, blending folk song themes of life coming from death with Latin rhythms and constant tempo changes. “I Don’t Want to Ruin It” combines clipped funk guitar parts, a powerful trumpet solo and hints of David Gray’s “Babylon” to question where a relationship should go next and “Born in Love” has a chorus that is pure Steely Dan circa “Can’t Buy a Thrill”. Last, and definitely not least, is “My Big Payday” packed with tempo changes, Chicago/Asbury Jukes horns, a classic swing feel and a whole bundle of fun.

The playing is outstanding, the harmonies are superb and it’s joyful throughout; just give it a listen.

“Kansas City Out Groove” is out now on Mondegreen Records.