Sol Driven Train
“The Cave” from the album Lighthouse
“Stevie Song” from the album Lighthouse
It’s a rare and special thing when you can hear a band’s passion in every note and inflection of their music, but it’s also what raises a band to a level of greatness above the rest. Sol Driven Train is one of those bands, and with Lighthouse, they’re on their way.
From the harmony-rich opening track “Don’t Wear Black,” to the haunting “Intravenous Peace” (a song about singer/guitarist Joel Timmon’s seven-week brush with death in a New Delhi hospital), they consistently spin dark themes into positive, uplifting works of art. Guitarist, trombonist, and singer Ward Buckheister is a perfect songwriting counterpart, penning “Friend of Mercy,” a chilled-out piece of ’70s soul that’s complimented by Russell Clarke’s soft touch on the saxophone.
SDT sheds the jam band notion on Lighthouse. Each song is musically tight and lyrically poetic — but when a guitar riff drops onto bassist Rusty Cole’s funky dance beats on tracks like “Circle Song #2,” they’re still guaranteed hip shakers. Drummer Phill Eason’s sole track, “Stevie Song,” may be the album’s masterpiece. About the birth of his son on Easter morning, he sings: “Forgive me for dreaming/forgive what we do/One day son you’ll find yourself dreaming too/’Cause dreaming is all you should do/Now everything we dream we dream for you.” As he hits the high notes over well-placed piano accompaniment, it’s instant goosebumps, if not tears.
One unique song, “The Cave,” is peppered with overdubs of whooping, laughing, and spooky slowed-down vocals over a Middle Eastern-style progression that ends in discordant feedback. Buckheister’s “Santa Fe” brings the tone back to the band’s typical laid-back sunshine-on-a-cloudy-day vibe, before closing with Timmon’s “Sullivan’s Island,” about the long breath of satisfaction from returning home. Title track “Lighthouse” probably best sums up the album — from trombone/sax swells to tight drum fills, Sol Driven Train attended to detail and left the songs without empty parts.
The band opens Lighthouse with a song about death, yet delivers a soaring, good mood-inducing album. There’s no way to hear it and not want to be friends with these guys, and that says a lot about a band. (www.soldriventrain.com) —Stratton Lawrence
Sol Driven Train perform at Art’s Bar & Grill on Sat. May 10 and at “Rockin’ at the Point” at the Charleston Harbor Resort on Fri. May 30.
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