Chris Jones and The Night Drivers – Made to Move
Chris Jones and The Night Drivers’ sixth studio release, Made to Move, is a stunner. By a band’s sixth release, it’s not overly expectant to suppose a band has a well-honed approach with every ounce of experimentation long since bled out of them. Chris Jones and the Night Drivers, however, are still willing to take chances with their idiosyncratic take on Americana music traditions. This is deeply felt music put over with a tremendous amount of artistry and the band’s wont to delve into thorny emotions gets spectacular treatment over the course of Made to Move’s twelve tracks. Chris Jones is an excellent band leader, even a cursory listen to the album bears it out, but the Night Drivers aren’t a band that needs much leading. Instead, they are clearly his artistic equals throughout this release and their contributions leave a lasting effect on the album’s songwriting and individual performances.
“All the Ways I’m Gone” is great fun, but there’s a serious subtext to the track implied by the musical backing and select passages. The greatest bluesmen and bluegrass players have always been able to bring just the right amount of humor to bear in deepening the impact of their chosen style. Chris Jones & the Night Drivers possess this same unique talent and it gets an early airing with the album opener. “I’m a Wanderer” is quite a contrast both musically and lyrically. The track, as a whole, is much more meditative than many of the other numbers on this album but never forsakes melody in exchange for that quality. Jones turns in a particularly breathtaking vocal performance that shows a deep, personal connection with the lyrical content. Their re-invention of the traditional cut “Dark Hollow” never abandons the original in any meaningful way, but they play it in a distinctly brighter light than many of the song’s more mournful interpretations. “Range Road 53” comes barreling towards listeners with sleek instrumental talents and an appealing amount of energy. This isn’t easy music to pull off and Jones has surrounded himself with an assortment of top flight players who make it sound effortless.
“You Always Come Back (To Hurting Me)” is as good as classic country gets. Jones and the Night Drivers abandon the bluegrass trappings here for an entertaining change of pace that invokes all the genre’s traditional elements with the band’s strongly personal touch. Another of Made to Move’s real tear-jerkers, “Silent Goodbye”, is also one of the best handled musical pieces on the album and the Night Drivers and Jones alike layer the performance with considerable nuance. The spiritually minded “Sleeping Through the Storm” has some moments of genuine poetry in its lyrics and a perfectly tempered vocal from Jones. The album’s conclusion, “What the Heck?!”, ends this release with its second instrumental and a well-woven musical tapestry featuring the bright, positive mood pervading some of the best tunes on Made to Move. The sixth release from Chris Jones & the Night Drivers proves that this is an abiding unit in the Americana tradition as committed as ever to putting out creative music.
9 out of 10 stars
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