East Nashville-based Eric Brace & Last Train Home is prepping for the release of their upcoming album, Daytime Highs & Overnight Lows. Their new release is set to drop on January 31st. But first, for those not yet familiar with the act in question, a bit o’ background.
Eric Brace & Last Train Home
Eric Brace & Last Train Home was founded circa 1997. The band is fronted by former journalist Eric Brace (lead vocals and rhythm guitar). The roster also includes co-producer Jared Bartlett (acoustic, baritone and electric guitar), Alan Brace, Eric’s brother, (harmonica and vocals), Kevin Cordt (trumpet), Jim Gray (bass and glockenspiel), Jen Gunderman (piano, organ, and accordion), Martin Lynds (drums), Scott McKnight (organ, electric and baritone guitar and vocals), Dave Van Allen (pedal steel guitar), Chris Watling (tenor and baritone saxophones), and Bill Williams (banjo, mandolin, electric slide guitar, and vocals).
Last Train Home’s rockin’ resume includes six previous platters, a trio of EPs, and one live concert DVD between 1997 and 2008. The band has performed in the US, Europe and in the Caribbean. For the past 10 years, Brace has been working with Nashville songwriters Thomm Jutz and Peter Cooper.
Brace explains: “The last Last Train Home release was Six Songs in 2009, covers of tunes I’d always loved. Since then, I’ve been recording and touring as a duo with Peter Cooper and as a trio with Peter and Thomm Jutz. I wrote and recorded a musical (folk opera?) with Karl Straub, Hangtown Dancehall, I compiled three volumes of East Nashville music, I produced an album by a cappella great Jerry Lawson, and put them all out on my Red Beet Records label.”
In the summer of 2019, Brace reunited the band in Nashville, Philadelphia and Washington DC for studio recordings. Those recording would eventually become the group’s 10th release.
Eric Brace & Last Train Home’s signature sound is a mix of multiple music genres, including Americana, country, folk-rock, indie, pop, and rock.
Daytime Highs & Overnight Lows
This new disc is on Brace’s East Nashville label, Red Beet Records. It was engineered, mixed, and co-produced by Bartlett. In addition to the band, vocalist Lindsay Hayes adds vocals to four tracks.
Track by track
This 14-track album opens on “Sleepy Eyes.” It’s a bluegrass-tinged cover of a song by Darren Schlappich, the frontman of Frog Holler.
The second selection is “Caney Fork.” This the first of his originals to appear here. The song is about the Caney Fork in Nashville and speaks of metaphorically letting go of your troubles via this Nashville river.
The next number is “Distance and Time.” There’s something sad, melancholic and yet hopeful in this song. Perhaps that’s why it might make some think of it as a drinking song and others think of it as a musical prayer.
The elegant albeit somewhat sad “Dear Lorraine” somehow sounds like an older song and does not seem to be much of a traveling song per se. Perhaps it fits in here as the tuneful tale of what can happen to someone who is often on the road.
The pop-influenced “Happy Is” follows. This is yet another song that involves a farewell. It features Justin Moses on banjo.
Next is a cover of Texas-based singer-songwriter and former band member Steve Wedemeyer’s “Floodplains.” Brace is known for adapting songs that he really likes. This is one of them. It works well here.
“Hudson River” is a definite traveling track. This is an apropos adaptation of a song by brothers Luke and Daniel Brindley. The song itself is old but Brace and the band make it work here.
“What Am I Gonna Do With You” is a great break that keeps things fresh. This is one of Brace’s fave barry White hits. It no doubt is a nice addition to live gigs as well because it is both unexpected and interesting.
“Old Railroads” is yet another cover cut. This one was co-composed by Jutz and Tammy Rogers of The Steeldrivers. Brace perhaps heard it a bit differently as this version demonstrates. Again though, it works well on this album in terms of theme and signature sound.
“I Like You” expresses a nice, simple sentiment. While this critic was initially on the fence, it seems like Brace succeeds at walking that razor edge between too much and just enough. Something about it smacks of old school Burt Bacharach ready-for-TV music and again Brace pulls it off complete with Jutz guesting on acoustic guitar.
B&O Man” was co-written with Cooper. This songstory is a great railroad track (get it?) that’s soundtrack-ready. Moses appropriately encores on banjo.
Brace and Cooper co-composed “Sailor” as well. Is this a musical metaphor for life or simply another travel-related tune? Perhaps it’s both. It doesn’t matter that much. The band likes it and that shows in their performance.
Next comes “Taking Trains.” It serves as yet another example of Brace’s songwriting abilities. It somehow has a familiar feel to it although yours truly is uncertain why.
The fun, upbeat album endnote is “Wake Up, We’re In Love.” Once more Brace and company take a cover and somehow own it. This one is originally credited to Scott McKnight. It lets listeners dance away the disc’s closing due in part to a Monkees-like instrumental influence.
The influences are all here including The Band, the Mavericks, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and several others as well. Does this album signal the return of the band? Perhaps. It’s not all that important in terms of the music here though.
Overall, what this platter does represent is the end product of a group of performers who enjoy playing together and were willing to gather in different cities to do it. It is also a fine example of entertainers who play what they like regardless of who wrote it or what music genre a song hails from. So check out Eric Brace & Last Train Home’s Your Daytime Highs & Overnight Lows because you’ll enjoy it . . . especially if you like “Taking Trains.”