Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A spark in Chicago music

Train Company at Double Door March 20, 2015

You can't listen to one song from The Remains of an Effort by Train Company and think you know this band. There's no pigeonholing a collection that ranges from gritty rock to nightclub jazz, from sexy blues to timeless pop, with genres I can't name in between. There is something for everyone. How this core band of five plays together with such diversity is astounding in itself, but what's even better is how energetic, sincere, empathetic, and joyful it all sounds together.

There's nothing like falling in love with a song, finding the kind of connection that makes you want to hug the music to your heart. I said you can't listen to one song to know this band, yet it takes only one song to know you're in love. Whatever genre they're playing in, the heart of Train Company comes through to create a full, cohesive work that in the end tells a story you want to hear again.

While exploring themes of change, the kinds of mistakes we all make, the kinds of growth we all need, there's both a sense of the drive to find yourself ("Look at you/Your face in your hands and you don't know what to do"; "to fill the void you make some noise") and a sense of compassion ("Through the air the numbered masses stay connected"; "'Cause I know, I've been there before/I know I'll be there once more") always recognizing the patterns of life we all go through ("You never know you're goin' round and round/Still fallin' up/All the way") with the feeling it's all okay, maybe even the point.

The musical arrangements (with added horns and strings) are the sound of seasoned players who know when to embellish and when to hold back. The music doesn't always go where expected, breaking the formulas with an understanding of layers and the power of nuance. Keyboardist Sam Wyatt taps tempos and crescendos from elegant to joyfully wild, as saxophonist Mark Alletag blows svelte seduction or a playful bounce; bassist Mike DeWitt tantalizes with rhythms that fix in our stomachs, as drummer Rob Lejman controls us with his steady beating or, with expert elation, rolls everything out; and singer/guitarist John Zozzaro buoyed on it all, responds to what he feels, tickling up guitar melodies, luring us around corners, seducing us with a bluesy lust, or pounding a dynamic rhythm to get even non-dancers dancing. 

As a songwriter, Zozarro, seems to have a vision, and it's played out in his lyrics, as well as in his emotionally textured yet astoundingly smooth, clean voice that is tender, sexy, triumphant, and playful.  He can wail with a voice of silken seduction, rip out guttural need, or soothe with the tenderness of a friend who cares. 

The opening song, “October,” is a beautiful testament to the band’s fearless experimentation and talent. It’s followed by the driving “City Down by the Shoreline,” a catchy song that then builds to a wild mesh of sound that demands relinquishment. “Leavin’” feels like the aftermath of a final night of sex and the thrill of new adventure,” and beside “Look at You,” leads the listener on in an album that begins to feel like a story. Bold assertion and sexy nonchalance blend in songs like “Still Can Feel the Heat” and “Myself in Two,” while the world turns moody and psychedelic in the midway gem “The Otherside,” then quietly compassionate in the lovely “Real Digital,” which I can’t believe isn’t a radio hit yet.  The feeling of story continues in songs like the rat-pack sounding “Face in the Crowd,” the vivid streets and voices of the cleverly constructed “Steve,” and the mysterious ambiguity of “Remains of an Effort,” while the charming “Bannister” pops up as one of the sweetest sexy songs I’ve heard in a long time.

When The Remains of an Effort ends—to snag a new meaning from "Face in the Crowd"—"You take a deep breath, then you start over." Train Company is the band to listen to if you’re “lookin’ for some change.” It’s time, isn’t it? 

Get a taste of them here! 
And you can see them March 20 at Double Door

Reviews by Patricia J. Esposito
author of Beside the Darker Shore ----

Reviews of Beside the Darker Shore

Goodreads Review 
Romance writers review 
GLBT Bookshelf review 


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