Sol Driven Train
Tajar Tracks 2
“Long John Song” from the album Tajar Tracks
If the original producers of the early episodes of Sesame Street had been based near the Blue Ridge Mountains, much of their musical material would have resembled the rustic grooves and twangy singing of local musical combo Sol Driven Train’s new collection Tajar Tracks 2 — a light, casual, no-frills follow-up to last year’s solid 10-song studio collection Lighthouse. In an almost entirely different vein from the more serious and sophisticated original material, Sol Driven Train detoured in this direction in the summer of 2005 when the band recorded the first Tajar Tracks collection while working with a few dozen big kids at Camp Gwynn Valley in Brevard, N.C. Some of Tajar Tracks 2 includes familiar family-friendly tunes and old-time traditionals featuring vocal performances from camp kids and guest Charleston musicians and DJs (Cary Ann Hearst, DJ Kurfu, Noodle McDoodle, Eden Fonvielle, Roger Bellow, and others). Sometimes, the adults take the lead vocals, as with the semi-straight-ahead renditions of “Oh Susannah,” “Rocky Top,” and “Pig in a Pen.” Sometimes, things get really silly and animated, as with the Deutschland-tinged “Musikander” (a romp sure to earn fans in Stuttgart) or the original underwear anthem “Long John Song” — a standout, featuring mandolin and turntable scratchin’. Throughout the collection, the band demonstrates a musical dexterity and sense of positivity. While some of the lighter, more hippie-dippy sing-alongs might have some of the band’s usual fans scratching their heads, many of these vintage kids tunes — rendered in SDT’s smooth funk style — would probably bring the house down at a regular club gig. (www.soldriventrain.com) —T. Ballard Lesemann
Sol Driven Train performs at Art’s Bar on Wed. Jan. 14 and at the Pour House on Sat. Feb. 28.
Blue Skies for Fools
“Skin Deep” from the album Blue Skies for Fools
Singer/guitarist Campbell Brown is familiar with the idea of singing soulful sounds over a hard-grooving rock foundation. He’s dabbled in that for years with the band Live Oak. Here with his other bandmates — drummer Brooks DuBose, bassist Frank Nelson, and keyboardist Jason Stokes — the funky riffs and rhythms seem a little less jammy and a bit more tied into the solid song arrangements. Recorded a few months ago at Ocean Industries Studios with local audio engineers Jeff Leonard and Eric Rickert, Gaslight Street’s nine-song debut is cool, crisp, and casual. While some minor moments seem a little too loose (and a few of Brown’s bent notes sound slightly off-key), it’s mostly a breezy romp of slow-rolling, southern-styled guitar rock. Much of the music is accented with thick vocal harmonies (Cary Ann Hearst guests on “Constantly Running” and “The Last Show”) or peppered with piano, Wurlitzer, and organ from Stokes and guest Jon Hager. The grittiest, most blues-riff-driven tunes work best here, especially the nasty lament “98 Blues” and the tempo-shiftin’ “Black & Blue Saliva.” (www.myspace.com/gaslightstreet) —T. Ballard Lesemann
Gaslight Street performs at the Music Farm on Sat. Jan. 31.
From the first chords of the lead-off title track, “Elephant Sky,” you can almost envision a music video featuring a pretty girl gazing out the window at rolling hills. The album’s 10 tracks sound friendly and familiar throughout — most are polished and radio ready, but loose enough to keep the kids dancing at the student union. Tracks like “On and On” toss in a bit of impressive lead Spanish-style guitar work, but the Charlotte-based band keeps things relatively clean and uncluttered in this studio effort — not unlike its name would indicate. Highlights include the grooving, well-crafted “Low” and the white-boy-funky “In a Moment.” Simplified might not be breaking new ground with their acoustic-based frat-rock sound, but their songs are tight and entertaining. It sounds like pop radio, but nothing we’d change the dial on. (www.simplifiedmusic.com) —Stratton Lawrence
Simplified plays at the Pour House on Thurs. Jan. 15.