The newly formed band American Drive may currently be best known for being the most recent version of the “New South” portion of J.D. Crowe and the New South, but don’t let the fact that their fearless leader is retiring stop you from checking out their new self-titled album. With strong vocals, excellent picking, and some great new songs mixed with old classics, American Drive proves that this band is here to stay.
The album kicks off with the driving first single, Long Haul Trucking Man. Written by Dwight McCall (who also provides lead vocals on the track), this tune provides a vivid picture of the life of a truck driver. Another band original comes from Rickey Wasson, who contributes the thoughtful War is Hell (co-written with Bill Castle). Wasson’s rich vocals help tell the story of a man who couldn’t leave the pain of war behind on the battlefield. A new tune from outside the band comes from southeastern Kentucky musician and songwriter Ronnie Wayne Gabbard. His touching, country-influenced Gospel song From Where I Stand is a great addition to the album.
American Drive also features a few revamped classic tunes from both the country and bluegrass genres. The band covers the 1977 Don Williams number one Some Broken Hearts Never Mend. While Wasson’s vocals sound quite similar to Williams’s, American Drive gives the song a slightly more modern and upbeat feel. They also include a catchy version of the bluegrass standard Gotta Travel On, and give a contemporary bluegrass treatment to the old Hank Snow tune Nobody’s Child.
One of the album’s standout tracks is Son of a Miner, written by Brink Brinkman and sung by resonator guitarist Matt DeSpain. The lyrics of the song will surely be familiar to anyone who has worked in the mines or known someone who did, especially the line “when you’re born in east Kentucky, that’s just something that you do.” Willow Creek Dam, written by the renowned songwriting pair of Pete Goble and Leroy Drumm, is another track not to miss. Its bitter lyrics share the downside of progress when a man’s childhood home is taken away by the damming of a river.
American Drive’s sound stays true to their roots in the New South, featuring Crowe-inspired banjo picking by Grasstowne’s Justin Jenkins, and the mixture of traditional and contemporary-sounding bluegrass which band members DeSpain (resonator guitar), McCall (mandolin), Wasson (guitar), and Kyle Perkins (bass) have become known for. As is to be expected, the musicianship and vocals on the album are outstanding.
While American Drive made their official debut at the IBMA World of Bluegrass on September 26, they will not officially begin touring until J.D. Crowe’s retirement is official in 2013, with a tentative first show at the Station Inn during the SPBGMA convention in late January.
Their album can be purchased from the band’s website at www.americandriveband.com or downloaded from iTunes.