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Reviews of three new CDs from Savannah artists

THE TRAIN WRECKS

Saddle Up

“We get loud but we never get bored,” Jason Bible sings in “Tennessee Mare,” the opening track on the Train Wrecks’ just–released second album. That’s a pretty good summation of the entire Train Wrecks experience – raucous and perpetually in overdrive, Savannah’s premiere Americana band is never anything but exciting. The band’s live shows are loud, and by God, you won’t get close to bored.

Bible and his bandmates have been playing most of these songs in concert for a year or more, so anyone who’s caught a Train Wrecks show (and since they’re gigging all the time, it’s a distinct possibility) will recognize the galloping “Tennessee Mare,” the defiant Western stomps “Head For the Hills” and “Hang Me High,” the sweeping and pseudo–psychedelic “Southern Skies” and the elegiac “Not the End.” The band submits balls–out rock ‘n’ roll, and Western swing. There’s even a haunting, uptempo instrumental, “Song For Sally.”

The album has been produced with pointed accents on reverb and echo, with a cloud of poignant pedal steel guitar floating somewhere in the moody sky – giving everything a ghostly, urgent, desperate feel. And that’s perfect for these songs about recklessness, redemption and righteousness.

The Train Wrecks’ power source, of course, is the knuckle–tight rhythm section of drummer Marcus Kuhlmann and bassist Eric Dunn. And Stuart Harmening’s dobro, slide guitar and chicken–picking leads give the songs a muscular and cohesive flex.

But it’s singer/songwriter Bible that makes Saddle Up ride tall from start to finish. His gravelly Texas yowl and growl evoke a world–weary outlaw on the run, a cowboy questioning his place in the world, a young Southerner obsessed with whiskey, war and the unfettered joy of making music. “Cold, Cold Stone” is the album’s stunner – it’s both anthemic and chilling.

Recorded at Savannah’s Elevated Basement Studio, Saddle Up joins Eric Culberson’s In the Outside – also tracked in the Basement – as the cornerstones of an already great year for homegrown music. See thetrainwrecksband.com

JEFFERSON ROSS

Hymns to the Here and Now

A relatively new arrival in Savannah, Jefferson Ross is a songwriter with considerable lyrical strengths. Hymns to the Here and Now is, make no mistake, a country album, with world–class instrumentation, tight and clean production, and Ross’ low tenor and Martin acoustic guitar out front and given a shimmering showcase.

The track “Hymn to the Here and Now” is a gospel capella number – Ross is the lead singer, and has overdubbed all the other vocal parts, too. It’s spellbinding.

Elsewhere, there are clever songs aboput Ross’ mother (“Blache DuBois Meets Lucille Ball”), the joys of Savannah living (“Oysters and Beer”) and a misty, Celtic–hued ballad (“Seven Hills and Seven Valleys”).

Ross’ textured wordsmithery is given a fine and colorful backdrop of fiddle, mandolin, pedal steel and piano – the album was produced in Nashville by Ross himself, with engineering and mixing by guitarist, singer and songwriter extraordinaire Thomm Jutz.

Ross, a co–founder of the Savannah Songwriter’s Showcase, performs many of these tunes in his solo sets, and they’re something to hear. Fleshed out and radio–ready on Hymns to the Here and Now, the songs take on a extra layer of life and vitality. See jeffersonross.com

JON LEE AND THE CANEBRAKES

Wading in the Wreckage

The first recording from this new Savannah trio is a four–song EP that splits its time between muscular blues and sinewy rock ‘n’ roll (what else would we expect from a band that named itself after a rattlesnake?) You’ll hear a little Jimi Hendrix and a little Stevie Ray Vaughan, a bit of Jon Butcher, a touch of Robin Trower and others.

Happily, the ‘Brakes weave back and forth over these lines, effectively blurring them, and the songs on Wading in the Wreckage are delightfully catchy. Much of this is due to bandleader Jonathan Murphy, whose guitarwork is ambitious but never over–played. He’s also a stylish vocalist with a strong command and range, and producer Shane Baldwin knows when to overdub and double–track him to best bluesy effect.

The drummer is Brian Haynes, and Kevin Bell plays bass (with Chadrick Morris handling the bottom end on the songs “Cheers to the Prowl” and “End Time Blues”).

Wading in the Wreckage is a unique record, and its brevity leaves you wanting to hear more. See jonleeandthecanebrakes on Facebook

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Bill DeYoung

Bill DeYoung

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Bill DeYoung was Connect's Arts & Entertainment Editor from May 2009 to August 2014.

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Connect Today 12.08.2016

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