The Walkabouts' second collection of covers comes with a quite definite theme, a musical tour of Europe, ranging from Greece in the South all the way up to Norway. And it's most definitely a journey, one which suits the darker, more introspective, and very literate nature of this Seattle band. But the ground covered is more than geographic; not many bands could move from Greek icon Mikis Theodorakis to Krautrockers Neu! on the same record. But the Walkabouts, whose career has largely happened in Europe, handle it with aplomb, throwing up plenty of changes in arrangements and working hard to penetrate to the core of a song, even the enigmatic "Solex in a Slipshod Style," on the face of it an odd choice, coming from Dutch sampling queen Solex. A few of the writers might be familiar to Americans, like Jacques Brel and Scott Walker, but the majority of the names will be unknown -- a good thing, since the music can be judged on the interpretation, not the original version. A few famous friends, like R.E.M.'s Peter Buck and Los Lobos sax man Steve Berlin add contributions, but it's the band who make it special, with Carla Torgerson's velvety voice caressing the lyrics while Chris Eckman worries his way into others. It might not be the most relaxing journey on offer, but it's one of the most rewarding, a night train across a Europe, not only through the countries, but also the hearts, minds, and souls.
Train Leaves at Eight Review
by Chris Nickson