Steel Train is a band that seems to be a more electrified version of Vetiver, looking back to the entirety of the American music tradition, with tracks like “Road Song” looking back to both the average Country and Western band and The Beach Boys, all while infusing their own sound to the mixture. The entirety of “Prairies of the Sun” works underneath a very leisurely pace; this is not the typical fare of Drive-Thru. “Dig” pushes the boundaries of Steel Train to include alt-country like Uncle Tupelo all the while infusing the track with a bass line that volumizes the track with adding a low end that is traditionally not found in all of those tinny Country originals. The incorporation of Santana-like guitar lines to the salsa-influenced “The Lee Baby Simms Show: Episode 1” is just another stop on the Americana tour that Steel Train takes us on throughout the entirety of “Prairies of the Sun”. The repetition of the track, as well as the lack of vocals really hinders the band in the early going of this disc. While “Baby Simms Show” is only two minutes, the length of the track is multiplied due to the repetition. Much more convincing in terms of their Mexican influence is the follow-up to “Baby Simms Show”, “Wake Your Eyes” is more of an amalgam of styles instead of a complete nod to Mexican music.
The disc settles back into its chair for “Two O’Clock” but Steel Train really takes the heights during the hump track “Grace”. A skillful chiaroscuro, “Grace” mixes sorrowful vocals with flittering piano splashes to make a track of opposites, its jarring nature one of the best draws on the entirety of the disc. The extended guitar solo that calls “Grace” home is recreated perfectly in the piano line that follows it; what was so chaotic in the beginning becomes one coherent entity at the end.
When tracks threaten to falter and fall back into the frat-rock standby, Steel Train (especially in “Gypsy Waves”) finds a way to freshen up the formula and make for compelling, if not always exciting music. Throughout most circles, Steel Train has gotten a bad rap presumably for their difference from the average Drive-Thru bands. All that needs to be said about that is that variety is the spice of life.
Top Tracks: Grace, Dig