Sol Driven TrainUnderdog/Independent
Among the many Charleston bands that can make an honest living playing their own work, Sol Driven Train seems to be one of the most successful.
To me, it has everything to do with the band’s work ethic and refusal to pigeonhole itself as simply another Southern jam band.
In truth, the band tends to wander from one musical style to another, and it takes its listeners along for the ride. Whether its roots rock, reggae, funk or even children’s music, this group of musicians gives it their all.
On Sol Driven Train’s latest, “Underdog,” the band is in fine form and once again all over the place musically. While that description of the band’s sound might spell career suicide for other acts, Sol Driven Train makes it work.
From the catchy opening title track to songs such as “Lady From Chiang Mai” and “Fuego! Fuego!” that make full use of the band’s horn section, it is obvious that Sol Driven Train has delivered another fun, loose album of superb songs.
My favorite song on the album, at least after the first half-dozen spins, is “One More Day,” which features backing vocals by local singer and last year’s “American Idol” contestant Elise Testone.
If you’re looking for a fun album to raise your spirits, then Sol Driven Train is more than happy to deliver.
The band will be throwing an album release party at 7 p.m. Friday at the Charleston Music Hall, 37 John St., with proceeds benefiting the Jerry Zucker Ride for Hope. Folks who buy a ticket ($22, $10 for students) for Friday’s show get a free copy of the new CD.
Key Tracks: “Underdog,” “One More Day,” “Fuego! Fuego!”
For the better part of two decades, Mark Oliver Everett, better known in the music world as simply E, has been using his band, Eels, to churn out his own brand of indie rock to a small but appreciative fan base.
Part of the reason for E’s sustained popularity is that listeners never quite know what they’re going to be getting.
On Eels’ latest, “Wonderful, Glorious,” E and his revolving cast of musicians go from sounding like a more melodic Tom Waits on the leadoff track, “Bombs Away,” to vocally resembling a 21st-century Paul Williams on “Accident Prone.”
“Peach Blossom” is the song The Black Keys wish they could write these days, while “New Alphabet” deftly mixes rock and electronica.
As if this wonderfully eclectic album wasn’t good enough by itself, fans get another disc of music consisting of rare tracks and live performances. Some of the best tunes from that bonus disc include “Your Mama Warned You,” “Happy Hour (We’re Gonna Rock)” and “Looking Up.”
Artists who are deeply entrenched in their own sound are always fascinating to watch.
Key Tracks: “Bombs Away,” “Accident Prone” and “Peach Blossom”
Chris Leigh and The Broken Hearts Broken Hearted Friends/Blue River
Every so often, an album comes across my desk that features a performer who writes great songs yet has trouble performing those songs live.
Chris Leigh is one such artist.
While Leigh writes above-par songs, to hear him sing those songs is often a lesson in patience.
Sure, all artists occasionally mess up when they sing live, but there is something about Leigh’s voice that just doesn’t sit right with my ears.
With the exception of a cover of Willie Nelson’s “Whiskey River,” all of the songs on Leigh’s latest release, “Broken Hearted Friends,” are originals.
Tunes such as “If You Make it to Heaven,” “Ramblin’ Man” and “Money” possibly could interest an artist in search of his or her next single, but just don’t work when sung by Leigh.
Amazingly enough, the one song that actually works well with Leigh’s vocals just happens to be the cover of “Whiskey River.”
Leigh seems to be a professional when it comes to writing and recording, but he is way better at the former than the latter.
Hopefully, he eventually will realize where his true talents lie.
Key Tracks: “If You Make it to Heaven,” “Money,” “Whiskey River”
By Devin Grant