[N]ew England is chock full of old towns with old ways and Boston-based band Tallahassee derived their name from the Native American word for old town, and has a brand new album coming out May 7th titled Old Ways. Are these all just happy coincidences or a vast conspiracy carefully put together by a 6’6″ Ohio native and former football player by the name of Brian Barthelmes who was once drafted by the New England Patriots? I’ll let our fellow music lovers out there in Music Savage land piece together their own theories while enjoying the band’s sophomore release.
A little background for those who might need it. Tallahassee formed in Providence, RI just over five years ago and released two EPs, 2008’s Cellar Songs and 2009’s Wolfe Moon, before solidly putting their stamp on the music world with their 2011 debut full-length album, Jealous Hands. This release created a whirlwind of positive press and made the boys champions of NPR, CMJ and college radio stations across the country. The tour that followed brought more fans to the fold with their vivacious live show and on-stage musical presence, which are key elements for fun to the ticket buying concert goers. How could this be topped you ask? Well, by bottling up the essence of your live show and creating Old Ways…that’s how.
The fantastic opening track, “Old Brown Shoes,” is also the first official single off of Old Ways and kicks off the album with rolling drums, two-step rhythms and lyrical longing to view the small town you grew up in from the rear-view mirror as you leave it behind to search for something bigger. Barthelmes sings out “This town is a faded memory/I pray the lord our souls to keep/I’d rather drown in the deep blue ocean/then tread water in this muddy creek” with passionate enthusiasm for finding a calling in a life not meant for stagnation. The song made me want to grab my girl and take to the road for some much needed adventure.
That desire to shake off the dust and carve a new path resonates throughout Old Ways and the track “I’ll Be Damned” finds our musical nomad shaking his fist at the setbacks found along the way, more determined than ever to not lose hope despite the obstacles. The steady beat laid down by drummer Matt Raskopf and bassist Shawn Carney is accentuated by Scott Thompson’s tribal-like guitar and highlights the battle to keep up the rigorous pace. These guys make it sound easy with their effortless musicianship and clear understanding of the album’s narrative.
Here you have a collection of songs that scour the basic human emotions of love, fear, anger, and hope. Every song is a journey rife with the expectation of overcoming the urge to give in and accept your fate. “Ride with the Devil” is a country-folk, cautionary tale of taking the easy way out, while “I Try” is a rockin’ little number about finding the will to keep going by gathering the people and things you love close to help pull you up. The closing track “Where oh Where” is an ode to a simpler, country-living life. It is a perfect song to end an album and a perfect song to sing around a campfire at sunset.
The bearded fellows of Tallahassee have made The Superman II/The Empire Strikes Back of follow up records, which is quite an accomplishment. I’m sure that every band that finds success with their first record fears the dreaded sophomore slump. Well fear not boys…. fear not.
Buy Old Ways