Chris DeVille reviews CDs from Trains Across the Sea and Erika Carey and the Calamities.
Trains Across the Sea
"Greetings From the Peach District"
My expectation when a band names itself after another band's song is that the new artist will closely resemble his source material. But considering Radiohead was named after a Talking Heads song, the association is sometimes rather loose.
Andy Gallagher named his band Trains Across the Sea after a shambling indie-rock classic by Silver Jews, and while that band's ghost hangs heavy over Gallagher's songwriting - particularly his lyrics - he shows himself to be more than a David Berman obsessive on his latest EP.
Gallagher has a knack for laid-back acoustic slacker jams that maintain a similar sensibility even as he seems to adopt a new persona for each song. The shifts can be jarring - consider his unpleasant Tom Waits/Cookie Monster grumble on "Wheat Bread" - but on the rousing, clever "Gods of Rock and Roll," his chameleon tricks work wonders.
No matter how he contorts his baritone drawl, Gallagher is usually saying something insightful about post-collegiate life. Abrasive vocals can't ruin "Wheat Bread," a relatable tale of stealing Wi-Fi and locking bikes to street signs, while "Holidays" presents old insights in a pleasing new way. And "The Cobbler's Blues" offers a relevant query in this day and age: "What were you doing the night they changed the sign from Larry's into Senor Buckeyes?"
Trains Across the Sea will perform Saturday at the WCRS benefit at The Summit.
Erika Carey and the Calamities
"Erika Carey and the Calamities"
More so than guitars, the accordion seems like an instrument that'd create something of a barrier between frontperson and audience. I can't speak for the ComFest set by singer-accordionist Erika Carey and the Calamities, but at a previous gig at Victorian's Midnight Cafe, there was definitely something coming between the players and those watching.
It could've just been the squeeze box or maybe a case of veteran players - like former Lilybandits frontman Todd May, former Greenhorn drummer Mark Spurgeon and Megan Palmer fiddler Betty Blockinger - still getting used to playing out together. It could also be a matter of earnest musicianship winning out over showmanship.
Regardless, the six tracks on their self-titled debut are unquestionably inviting. Carey's accordion and Blockinger's violin wash smoothly over a sound that pays homage to bluegrass and the best alt-country, with her vocals suggesting a lower-key Neko Case, in both octave and attitude. She and May make especially beautiful harmonies together on "Five Years."
Here's hoping the barrier breaks for their 10 p.m. show on Saturday, July 11, with Matthew Hoover and the Supersaints at the perfectly intimate Rumba Cafe. If not, try closing your eyes. -Melissa Starker
For more local music news and reviews, click to the Sensory Overload blog at ColumbusAlive.com