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

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‘Track Dogs – “Bon Scott, He Rocked”: