Album Review - The Roadside Graves, "No One Will Know Where You've Been"

New Jersey band The Roadside Graves have recently released their latest full length album, No One Will Know Where You’ve Been, through Brooklyn’s Kill Buffalo Records. Coming hot the heels of January’s career-summarizing (and appetite wetting) EP, What Happened To Him Could Happen To Anyone, the album finds the band further honing their country and folk roots, while also branching their sound out to encompass more of a rock and pop influence. Lead singer and lyricist John Gleason has written another fine collection of intimate stories, lush with the kind of precise detail that distinguishes his writing from so many others. If there is a constant theme to the record it is one focused on the after-effects people have on our lives when they leave it. No One Will Know Where You’ve Been also sports an improved sense of production over some of their earlier work, specifically the attention to making sure that all the instrumentation is balanced. Acoustic and electric guitars are evenly matched with piano and organ, demonstrating a skilled and professional sounding interplay between all musicians.

First single “West Coast”, which appeared on January’s EP, is the perfect introduction to the band, as well as an example of this new level of musicianship and songcraft. The song is a rousing anthem, with a driving beat and a chorus that sticks. It features some inspired writing: “I got a name and I got a place, for every scar you see on my face, and I got a heart that won’t quit, won’t break”. The song is matched by “Family and Friends”, which, cut from the same cloth as “West Coast”, features an instrumental build-up custom made to be a leadoff track or set opener. The chorus comes early and often, but it’s the lyrical detail that stands out: “keep the windows open, the car unlocked, your shirt unbuttoned, my heart in a knot”. Along with “Women In Black”, these songs get the album off to a pulse-racing start.

“If California Didn’t End” and “Oh Boy, It’s A Girl” are two quiet acoustic songs that put Gleason’s heartbreaking sense of story-telling in the limelight. Much of the rest of the album works as a meeting point between these two musical poles. “Women In Black” is a lulling folk-waltz, and both the title track and “Man At Every Port” are raucous hard-folk, hoots blown off the track, and show the band deftly sliding between genres. “Radio” works as the album centerpiece, even though it is the second to last song. It begins as a plaintive folk song, then bursts into an organ and electric guitar romp, before settling into what may be some of 2007’s most beautiful and memorable moments, an organ solo that takes the song to new heights, becoming something that would sound right at home tucked into the back half of The River. The song’s finale, the simple repeating of the line “it was a good, good night on the radio” over and over, at first just to piano accompaniment and then slowly back to the whole band, is worth the price of admission by itself. It’s a line that sounds like something I’d love to say again at some point, an innocent declaration that seems to be falling further from reality all the time, and one that captures a youthful appreciation of the magic that good songs, played in a row, can have.

On No One Will Know Where You’ve Been The Roadside Graves have done what few other bands have been able to do lately - make a great record steeped in the alt-country sound that reached its apex in the mid-to-late 90’s. Elevated by touching and afflictive songwriting, as well as beautiful musicianship, No One Will Know Where You’ve Been is a bold leap forward for an already impressive band. Gleason sings often about his characters’ hearts as their defining trait, and often it is, whether it is the unflinching kind of “West Coast”, the vulnerable one in “Family & Friends”, or the broken ones in “Oh Boy, It’s A Girl”. A fitting metaphor for a band that wears its heart on its sleeve, pumping its blood into a set of songs that, if given the chance, would make for its own good, good night on the radio.

MP3 :: West Coast
MP3 :: Women In Black
(from No One Will Know Where You’ve Been)
Buy No One Will Know Where You’ve Been from Kill Buffalo here.

And visit The Roadside Graves at their website and myspace, where you can here more streaming music.

No comments: