County Road Bound by Dead Trains is an album of Boston blues punk, a genre so masculine that the mere act of typing its name caused me to sprout a six-foot beard. As you may have guessed from the genre, this isn’t music for soft-eared, acoustic folk addicts. County Road Bound hits hard with pounding bass and drums, wild guitar, and entertainingly jarring tempo alterations. And despite a sprinkling of repetitiveness, the unique sound and technical skill on display here is what eventually won me over.
The title track of County Road Bound, which also happens to be the first track on the album, does a solid job of summing up what listeners should expect. The guitar chords are rhythmic, the basslines are punchy, and the drummer ‘s slamming crash cymbals and kick drums like they’re going out of style. But don’t get it into your head that it’s cacophonous chaos. The heavily rhythmic drums and guitar holds songs together through every tempo change, giving free reign to every other instrument to go nuts. The bass in particular really knocked me off my feet. The bassist does a beautiful job of standing out when his (often complex) parts should be at center stage, and backing off when it’s time to give someone else their moment in the spotlight.
Dead Trains’ sound is a killer formula. When I listened to a song or two on my drive to work, the heavily rhythmic focus afflicted me with a major case of “head-bobbing-itis.” The tempo changes kept each track interesting, and I couldn’t help marveling at the aforementioned excellence on bass. But the operative phrase that I used two sentences ago was “a song or two.” Almost every song is put together the same, and it weakened the album overall. During extended listening, the unique tempo changes, mighty rhythm, and beefy bass-playing — three of County Road Bound’s greatest strengths — went from exciting to routine. I started thinking, “When does the tempo change happen? Oh, another unusual chord progression. Hey, the bass player’s still doing his thing, I guess.”
While the appeal of County Road Bound fades as the album goes on, it’s perfect to listen to in the car as you’re driving to work, to pick up your kids, or, possibly, to the White House (which reminds me, thank you for reading my articles religiously, Mr. President). It’s a major drag that County Road Bound goes from awesome to average after listening to more than a few tracks, but the technical mastery and theoretical depth of the album are its saving graces. If you’ve ever wanted to experience punk rock and blues simultaneously on your morning, afternoon, or evening commute, then County Road Bound has you covered.
*images from Planetary Press Group