TRACK DOGS – Fire On The Rails (Mondegreen Records)

Fire On The RailsTrack Dogs’ Fire On The Rails is folky and funky with trumpets galore and the occasional violin that soars above the usual musical fray.

A flashback: there was a great world music band in the 90’s called 3 Mustaphas, whose motto was “Forward In All Directions”. And this album takes up that aegis and runs to score points into the goal posts of countless cultures. Yeah, this one is all over the geographical place.

The folk purity of ‘Love & War’ quickly morphs into a very Tijuana Brass and ethnic percussion mode, only to be matched with a fiery violin that checks the pop propulsion of the tune and shifts it into overdrive, while the vocals sing an earnest cause of, well, “love and war” passion. And ‘I Needed You’ is another urgent tune with a bouncy trumpet, great lyrics, and a vocal that pleads to the big heart of the world. The melody (sort of) conjures the memory of (the great) Phil Ochs and his song ‘Another Age’ from his Rehearsals For Retirement album. Nothing wrong with that! ‘Better Off  On Your Own’, again, has a vibrant trumpet and vocal melody that pulse the tune, while an acoustic guitar provides an unleavened anchor that recalls the human touch of a really nice Paul Simon Graceland period song.

And, quite frankly, the pop mastery of Billy Joel comes to mind. Again, nothing wrong with that!

It’s just an idea, but the trumpet graced sound will appeal to old folky types who loved Bruce Cockburn’s song ‘You Pay Your Money And You Take Your Chance’, from his Inner City Front record.

But the infectious mandolin graced ‘Dragonfly’s Castle’ makes all the crap I watched on the television today a distant and, thankfully, muted memory. It’s a really nice song.

Odd: the lyrics are often contemplative, but they are also laced with humour. ‘On The Last Night’ vibrates with ironic goodness, like a good Sir Raymond Douglas Davies tune that begs us all to “come dancing”. A banjo propels ‘Don’t Delay’. This is brilliant Nitty Gritty Dirt Band celebration stuff. Truly, Mr. Bojangles would dance to the tune. By the way, its banjo-fueled beauty rivals any song on CAAMP’s recent (and very nice) By & By album.

Now to be fair, ‘And The Piano Sings’ can’t even claim a distant cousin kinship to folk music, but it’s funky and gets tattooed in the brain. It’s a Freddie Mercury tribute. The chorus is catchy in a nice way and avoids any reference to Galileo, Figaro, or for that matter, anyone known as Beelzebub.

Ahh – ‘Abi’s Lullaby’ is a lovely acoustic folk tune that assures, “all your dreams are safe with me”. It’s a quiet respite from the quick pace of the album.

That said, the fast ‘When She Comes’ ups the ante, and with its folk-blues-ragtime combo-platter approach, recalls the music of The Red Clay Ramblers, who just managed to include every bit of America’s soul (and a trumpet!) in their music. That’s high praise.

The album ends with ‘All Clapped Out’, an all vocal and hand clap fest that puts a somewhat odd and enjoyable final punctuation point on the record.

Fire On The Rails bounces between the poles of pop and folk with trumpets and strings aplenty, all of which accent the urgent vocals and choruses that bob far and wide and make any Mustapha proud because this music, indeed, goes “forward in all directions”.

Bill Golembeski

Artists’ website:

‘On The Last Night’: