ROUTES & BRANCHES
featuring the very best of americana, alt.country and roots music
July 15, 2018
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust
It's the feeling I live for as a music lover. Open up the record, put it on the player, and immediately feel in my pocket, settled into the groove. Happens just a couple times per year, even less with new artists. But it's what drives me.
Kevin Galloway isn't an unfamiliar quantity. As a member of Uncle Lucius, he released four albums of really good Southern country rock, and toured hard to foster a nationwide reputation. With The Change (Nine Mile Records, August 3rd), Galloway steps into his own, apart from the "five-headed beast" that was his musical home for a decade. The results feel like home.
The Change opens with the infectiously positive "Don't It Feel Good To Smile" written by Hal Vorpahl, another founding member of Uncle Lucius. Don't it feel good to smile / Let our worries rest awhile / Might as well enjoy the ride. The unceasingly upbeat tune doesn't whack you across the face with its positivity, but simply paints a picture of the simple things that make up a Good Life. Morning light ... coffee ... an old Don Williams record. The song harkens back to the days of a.m. country music that blurred the boundaries between country and deliciously mellow rock.
Galloway calls this new stuff Gulf Coast country-soul. Its soul is deeper than Lucius, though it rocks less. Its statements are more subtle and less insistent. It is a mannered record, more old-fashioned though it is no simple throwback. With his band, Galloway was one of several writers, each of whom dragged a different musical brand and diverse influences to the table. On The Change, he is freed to simply dive deep into his own sound, which is rich, generous and patient. Where Lucius was hot sauce, Galloway is maple syrup.
Galloway is a singularly gifted vocalist, singing around the beat and investing his lyrics with heart and soul without resorting to tricks. His run through Billy Preston's ubiquitous "You Are So Beautiful" reminds us of the simplicity and sweetness of the song, often buried by singers more likely to showboat (go back to Preston's original version for an antidote to Joe Cocker's iconically gut busting version).
"Hands on the Wheel" brings an unhurried gospel sensibility, beautifully played and graciously delivered. Aside from Galloway's vocal, the keys hold the central role here, conducted so gracefully by Jon Grossman, a latter day addition to Lucius. His solo sounds like nothing else in our kind of music. Now my hand's on the wheel of something that's real / And I feel like I'm going home. It's a heart-full testament that brings to mind certain of Leon Russell's earlier, more restrained moments that are so good to your ears that it almost hurts.
"Miles and Miles" trades in a more contemporary sound, perhaps akin to 2016's revelatory Justin Wells CD. Like the title cut, it proves that Galloway hasn't abandoned some of the stuff he contributed to the band. And soon he'll realize that he is lost / And he'll get down from off his cross / And he'll rise up like a man. It's the perfect country compliment to the more soul-leaning sounds, the fuller band arrangements constructed with producers Hal Vorpahl and James Stevens.
But it's songs like "When the Heart Cries Out" that sink further into my heart. Galloway delivers it like a secular hymn, in a voice that lifts him among the rare roots music talents. It's a spirit that might've gone largely underappreciated in Uncle Lucius' rush to make an unholy noise. While I've been a fan of the band, the aptly-named The Change is a revelation.
- Uncle Lucius, "My Gun Can Burn" Something They Ain't (Uncle Lucius, 06)
^ Kevin Galloway, "Don't it Feel Good to Smile" The Change (Nine Mile, 18) D
- Tyler Childers, "Dead Man's Curve" Live on Red Barn Radio I & II (Hickman Holler, 18)
- Cody Canada & the Departed, "Song About Nothin'" Three (Underground Sound, 18)
- Lori McKenna, "Lot Behind St Mary's" The Tree (CN, 18)
- Ruston Kelly, "Mockingbird" Dying Star (Rounder, 18)
- Devil Makes Three, "Bad Idea" Chains Are Broken (New West, 18)
- Alejandro Escovedo, "Sonica USA" The Crossing (YepRoc, 18) D
- Left Lane Cruiser, "Lost My Mind" Junkyard Speed Ball (Alive, 11)
- Lucero, "Cover Me" Among the Ghosts (Liberty + Lament, 18)
- Tom Freund, "East of Lincoln" East of Lincoln (Surf Road, 18) D
- Colter Wall, "Calgary Round-up" single (Young Mary's, 18) D
- Sturgill Simpson, "Life of Sin" Metamodern Sounds in Country Music (High Top Mt, 14)
- Jason Eady, "The Climb" I Travel On (Old Guitar, 18)
- Israel Nash, "Spiritfalls" Lifted (Desert Folklore, 18)
- Houndmouth, "Waiting for the Night" Golden Age (Reprise, 18) D
- Amanda Shires, "Parking Lot Pirouette" To the Sunset (Silver Knife, 18)
- Gregory Alan Isakov, "Chemicals" Evening Machines (Dualtone, 18) D
- Andrew Combs, "Don't Tell Our Friends About Me" 5 Covers & a Song EP (New West, 18)
- American Aquarium, "When We Were Younger Men" Things Change (New West, 18)
- Trampled by Turtles, "Wildflowers" single (Banjodad, 18) D
- Turnpike Troubadours, "Easton & Main" Turnpike Troubadours (Bossier City, 15)
- Cody Jinks, "Somewhere Between I Love You and I'm Leavin'" Lifers (Rounder, 18)
- Jayhawks, "Bitter End" Back Roads & Abandoned Motels (Sony, 18)
- William Elliott Whitmore, "Fear of Trains" Kilonova (Bloodshot, 18) D
- Hurray for the Riff Raff, "No One Else" Small Town Heroes (ATO, 14)
- Juanita Stein, "Get Back to the City" Until the Lights Fade (Nude, 18)
- Eric Church, "Desperate Man (w/Ray Wylie Hubbard)" Desperate Man (EMI, 18) D
- Jason Isbell, "Racetrack Romeo" Sirens of the Ditch: Deluxe Edition (New West, 18)
- The Pollies, "Unknown Legend" single (This is American Music, 18) D