When an album comes in the mail (or e-mail, these days) from a new band, you’re never quite sure what to expect. Will the whole album live up to the superbly produced first single? Will an amazing live sound transfer to a recording? Conversely, have the engineering wizards worked their magic on a band that’s not quite up to par?
I wasn’t extremely familiar with Route 3, a traditional-leaning group based in southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas, before hearing their debut, self-titled album from 7Flat Records recently. It was certainly a happy surprise, filled with strong vocals, well-written originals, and a few nicely updated older numbers.
The album is largely anchored by the solid vocals of guitarist Jason Jordan, who also wrote seven of the songs here. He has a clear, capable voice that fits well with the band’s modern traditional vibe. Opening track Cabin We Call Home serves as a fine introduction to both Jordan’s vocals and the band’s sound. Led by spot-on banjo from Robby Boone, it’s a nice “old homeplace” song, reminiscing on the good ole days. Roger Adams’s mandolin kicks off on the ¾ time Splitlog Road, which has a similar theme of drifting back through happy childhood memories. It’s filled with vivid images of growing up in the country – mama making biscuits on a wood-burning stove, an old coonhound, and life lessons from grandpa, among them.
Cold Hearted Love serves as a well-written kiss-off to an old lover, with a nice groove set by Boone’s uptempo banjo. Also in the heartbreak vein is a fine cover of Love and Wealth, featuring Adams singing lead on the verses. Adams mostly takes care of tenor vocals for the band, but his lead is strong as well, with a neat Mac Wiseman vibe you don’t hear very often these days.
The band has chosen well for their cover song selections, with songs that are familiar but not overdone. In addition to Love and Wealth, they offer up straightforward cuts of the traditional standards Pain in My Heart and Hard Hearted, both enjoyable and with nice harmonies on the choruses. One of the album’s best songs, however, is the cover of I’ve Got That Old Feeling. It’s a plaintive, yearning number, slowed down from the familiar Alison Krauss cut, giving the song a much more lonesome feel. It’s one where you’ll likely be hitting repeat several times.
Jordan, Adams, Boone, and Doug Clifton (bass) have put together an impressive first recording. Their sound is solidly in the recognizable modern traditional, country-tinged camp, but their vocals and solid collection of original songs set them apart from the crowd. I’m looking forward to hearing more from them, both on widely-listened-to radio shows and future albums.
For more information on Route 3, visit their website. Their new album can also be purchased there.