A couple of years back, Trains Across the Sea mastermind Andy Gallagher quit his job as an engineer to pursue creative endeavors full time. Philosophically, it was an admirable move. From a practical standpoint, I worried that Gallagher's music wasn't good enough to justify pouring his life into it.

A couple of years back, Trains Across the Sea mastermind Andy Gallagher quit his job as an engineer to pursue creative endeavors full time. Philosophically, it was an admirable move. From a practical standpoint, I worried that Gallagher's music wasn't good enough to justify pouring his life into it.

Plenty of amazing bands have worked their asses off only to toil in obscurity. Then again, lots of bands that fall short of amazing hit it big, often by keeping their nose to the grindstone, Gallagher-style.

It's a crapshoot. But after seeing Trains Across the Sea last Wednesday at Rumba Cafe, I'm a lot less concerned about Gallagher's life direction.

One gripe with the frontman before was that it seemed like he was trying too hard, blowing up his enthusiastic showman persona to an obnoxious extent. When your band is just you and maybe one sidekick and your goal is to rock, you have to get hyped. Unless your songs absolutely kill, though, the result can be a performance that's all exclamation point, no sentence.

Trains' latest lineup solves that problem. Gallagher is now backed by the DewDroppers, a ragtag crew whose sound traipses drunkenly between Tin Pan Alley and the local saloon.

His songs feel completely different in their hands - more relaxed and natural, though certainly still rambunctious when they ought to be. Any step away from the nasal naivete of folk-punk acts like Ghost Mice is a step in the right direction.

Gallagher's not writing emo songs, after all, so the tempered yet rollicking "Like a Rolling Stone" vibe conjured by his new players fits better with the reflective lyrics he's been spouting from the beginning.

Words have always been his strength. With simple observations, he captures freewheeling twentysomething life in all its glory ("Let's go stealing girlfriends from the boyfriends we don't know") and its shame ("If we sit by the window, the internet's free").

I still find his vocal affectations a little off-putting - is he Johnny Cash? Elvis Presley? - but considering how much Gallagher has improved this operation over the past year, there's a good chance he'll get that sorted out too.