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: http://trackdogsmusic.com/

‘On The Last Night’:

TRACK DOGS – Serenity Sessions (Monde Green)

Serenity SessionsFor those who don’t know, Track Dogs are an Anglo-Irish-American acoustic quartet based in Madrid comprising Sheffield’s Howard Brown, Ohio’s Robbie K Jones and, respectively from Co. Wicklow and Dun Laoghaire, Dave Mooney and lead vocalist Garrett Wall, their instrumentation taking in cajon, banjo, ukulele, mandolin and trumpet alongside guitar and piano. Making their debut under their current name (after the New York subway maintenance teams) in 2011, they’ve already got four albums under their belt, Serenity Sessions being titled for the Spanish studio where most of them were recorded.

Given their roots and adopted home, it won’t be too much of a surprise to learn the music draws on American, British, Irish and Latin influences, getting things underway in laid back, jazzy manner with ‘To The End’, Brown’s trumpet taking the spotlight. They then pick up the tempo for the perky, trumpet, double bass and cajon driven ‘So Much Dust’ (a touch of Van Morrison in places), a similar jaunty groove to be found in the sunny ‘Don’t Waste Time’, Wall on ukulele and trumpet augmented by a couple of trombones.

Although they venture into softer territory for the close harmonies of the gentle waltzing cello-caressed ‘Broken Strings’, the overall sound is sunnily upbeat and melodic. ‘Whatever Happens’ touches on calypso colours, they give it some of that ‘Iko Iko’ groove on the handclap/leg slap percussive stomp of ‘The Lights Went Out In Cotos’ and introduce whistle into the banjo led ‘Only Human’ with its stylistic memories of ‘When I’m Dead and Gone’. They also briefly go electric as the wittily named Madrid guitarist El Twanguero joins them for the bluesy rolling vibe of ‘Love Me Like You Used To’.

Their live sets are apparently often strongly bluegrass inclined, and the genre’s served with a couple of numbers here, the train song ‘Orion Sees’ (which oddly reminds me of Toto’s ‘Africa’) and ‘Bon Scott, He Rocked’, a playful affection tribute to the late AC/DC singer. My personal favourite though is the album’s sole cover, closing things up with a lovely stripped back and slowed down, smoothly weary version of the Faces’ rowdy classic ‘Oooh La La’, Brown’s trumpet adding to its mellow ambience. Very much the sound of sunny summer festivals, pitch up a gazebo in the garden, chill the beers and enjoy.

Mike Davies

Artists’ website: www.trackdogsmusic.com

‘Track Dogs – “Bon Scott, He Rocked”:

Track Dogs announce new album

Track Dogs

These particular dogs started life back in the autumn of 2006, under the name of The Garrett Wall Band. The starting line-up was simple but effective; guitar, bass, trumpet and cajón. They wanted a clean sound that would work as easily in someone’s living room as it would on the world’s stages.

They cut their “live” teeth playing twenty six shows in seven days at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and released their debut album Sky Pointing shortly after in 2007.

Tours in Ireland and Spain followed and the relative media in both countries started to take note. They followed this up with the album Hands & Imperfections in 2009.

When the time came to release their third studio album they realized a name change was vital. It was important the band be considered for what it was; a band. Not wanting to be considered a singer songwriter plus backing musicians any longer they opted (after an exhaustive search) for the name Track Dogs which comes from the maintenance teams who work the New York subway. These close-knit teams work while the trains are circulating and thus need to look our for each other at all times. What better name for a group that musically did just that!

Thus the simply titled Track Dogs was released in 2011 and from this moment things began to change for the band. The use of harmonies became a signature sound for them and they also expanded the line-up to include banjo & ukulele. Hailing from Ireland, the UK and the USA, the four expats set up their own label, Mondegreen Records, to handle all releases and the licensing of their music, understanding the importance of control over their recordings.

In 2013 the band was picked to perform as part of the Sounds From Spain platform at SXSW in Austin, Texas. In the same year they were also selected for Girando Por Salas (GPS), an important incentive for touring bands in Spain. With the release of their fourth album All Roads, the group’s unique sound was even more rounded and defined.

With their new album Serenity Sessions, named for the studio where they had recorded the bulk of their albums, the band has finally reached a point where the energy and power of their live sound is properly reflected in their recordings. With the addition of a richer production to their sound, and collaborations with artists such as El Twanguero this new body of work reflects the perfect mix of styles which defines what Track Dogs are all about.

Artists’ website: www.trackdogsmusic.com

‘Bon Scott, He Rocked’ – official video: