Steel Train

Twilight Tales from the Prairies of the Sun

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Steel Train are a very close cousin to Canadian roots group Blue Rodeo circa Five Days in July, judging by the happy, ambling "Better Love," which centers around lead singer Jack Antonoff and his infatuation with actress Scarlett Johansen. Folksy and very warm, the song just gels from the onset and chugs along at a jug band's pace. From there the band goes down a dusty country lane on the catchy and laid-back "Road Song," which sounds like Golden Smog or an early version of the Grateful Dead with mandolin work from longtime Dead associate David Grisman. Just as stellar is the soft, acoustic backbone fueling "Dig," which could be an homage to Brian Wilson or the Beach Boys with that cozy, sitting-around-the-campfire harmony. Gene Parsons, known for his work in the Flying Burrito Brothers, lends a hand on pedal steel guitar. What comes from out of nowhere, though, is the first of two Santana-ish, Latin, hip-shaking instrumentals entitled "The Lee Baby Simms Show: Episode 1." Antonoff is intent on maintaining the singer/songwriter domain with a slightly jam band-based effort during "Wake Your Eyes," but "Two O'Clock" is too much of a stretch. Here, Steel Train create a tune that is best suited for perhaps the Doves to spin some mysterious but uncanny Brit-pop around. Perhaps the highlight is the soft mountain music effort behind "Catch You on the Other Side," which takes a while to get off the ground. But when it does, it's worth it. "Gypsy Waves" starts off somewhat like "Fly Like an Eagle" before moving into a jam band roots funk that sounds a bit like Jason Mraz and String Cheese Incident with its long, winding instrumental portions. "Tickle Your Toes" is basically more of the same noodle-work on guitar. Although there is a bit too much fat on some of these numbers, "Blue" and the piano-driven, Ben Folds-like "Cellophane and Glass" are pretty and, more importantly, to the point.

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