Trainwreck Riders

The Perch

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While Uncle Tupelo created the template for much of what would follow in the alt country sweepstakes, too many bands latched onto the wistful high-lonesome sound of March 16-20, 1992 and Anodyne while overlooking the coffee-and-beer-fueled overdrive that dominated No Depression and Still Feel Gone. San Francisco's Trainwreck Riders don't appear to have been spending much time listening to the Uncle Tupelo back catalog, but they've unwittingly learned a lesson best gleaned from examining their full body of work -- the twangy and resonant stuff works best when it's faced off against something that rocks with a solid head of energy. Trainwreck Riders' third album, The Perch, sways back and forth between introverted midtempo numbers and more abandoned and energetic rockers that suggest a three-way jam session between Neil Young, Dinosaur Jr., and the Meat Puppets. Vocalist Pete Frauenfelder's reedy but expressive voice communicates a powerful sincerity on the more measured stuff, but he makes himself heard with unexpected force when the band cranks it up, and he and Andrew Kerwin's guitars weave together well. Drummer Steve Kerwin knows how to make this band cruise at any speed, and Forrest Lawrence's bass work is subtle and in the pocket. These tales of city boys with the 21st century country blues don't tell us much that's likely to seem new to anyone, but the tone is always sincere and effective, like journal entries from a life whose ups and downs are clearly recognizable, and the rough, sweet tone of the music rhymes with their messages. If anything, The Perch is so straightforward it wouldn't have hurt if the Trainwreck Riders had gussied up their music a bit more in the studio, but there's a lot to be said for a band that errs on the side of modesty in an era of ProTools overload, and their virtues are on clear display on this album.

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