A stomping rocky country funk, or funky country rock, album made by friends.
Freight (from Ithaca NY state, there is another one!) are a five-piece band, built around a collaboration between JP Payton (JP and the Easytigers) and Liam Lawson (The Auroras). In so many ways it is like a debut album, but made by grown-ups, and it sounds like they had such fun bringing it to life together. Having met at an open mic night, Payton and Lawson’s friendship grew to the point where they decided to collaborate and bring their previous musical paths together.
Once they got down to the serious business of recording their sound, they worked with studio owner and multi-instrumentalist Chris Ploss, who played everything from drums and organ to bass and “feedback guitar” on the album tracks.
As the band developed, they called on keyboard player Colleen Countryman to join them. Lawson had worked with her previously, and he was sure she could add a desired psychedelic edge to the heavy thumping backbeat evident across all the tracks. This is a big meaty sound with a musical heart. Ploss and bassist Walt Lorenzut, who joined during the sessions, eventually became full-fledged band members, both contributing to the group’s evolving sound.
The music on this album, described by the Payton, is “Groove-centric and playfully syncopated, the band’s primary sound is a danceable variety of folk-rock, replete with electric organ fuzz, telecaster twang, and no-nonsense steel-string chug…a funky sort of country rock.” Well, there you go. I couldn’t have put it better myself!
The songwriting on the album is primarily down to Payton, and draws on his country music heritage. Subjects covered include close relationships, connections between people and where they live, and the pains of growing up or old, not always the same thing.
There is a world-weariness to lead singer JP’s voice which works well with the subject matter here. He covers most vocals, but does alternate with Lawson and Ploss.
The album has blues/funk/Americana influences running through it from the get-go. Dire Straits, The Doors, Hootie and the Blowfish, the bluesier/country end of the Rolling Stones, the Felice Brothers, early Steve Earle all came to mind at different times whilst listening to this album. It has some of all of them, but it is not any of them. In other words, there is great musicianship and it is easy on the ear, because it is itself- fresh, yet grounded in country rock principles.
As an album, it shines, though perhaps not perfectly. But then, life doesn’t either. Some tracks can be engaged with quicker than others, which may be down to this listener as much as the music. Like life, embrace it with all its little imperfections, and look forward to an ever better future.
This is a recording of skilled musicians and friends enjoying doing what they do. A welcome starting point that seems set to grow and stomp into its own welcome place out there in the world.