After a short introduction, Eric Brace steps up to the microphone with the statement, “Throw my ticket out the window, throw my suitcase out there too. Throw my troubles out the door, I don’t need them anymore, ‘cause tonight I’ll be staying here with you.” The words are borrowed from Bob Dylan but like everything that Last Train Home touched, they make it their own. Recorded on April 13and 14, 2007, Last Train Home captured sets at IOTA in Arlington, Virginia. The shows celebrated both the venue and the band. Both came together in their infancy and spent ten years growing into a premier performance space and a group that had achieved national status, and played nearly 200 shows at IOTA.
Eric Brace was a staff writer for The Washington Post where he was a columnist covering the local music and nightlife scene from 1996 to 2003. Last Train Home came into being through recordings that Eric began in 1996, with the eponomously named Last Train Home E.P. seeing its release in 1997. They solidified the industry buzz with True North, released in 1999 and were named Washington D.C.'s "Artist of the Year" by the Washington Area Music Association in January, 2003. Last Train Home relocated to East Nashville in 2004 and quickly became a part of Nashville's independent music scene. LTH was named one of the finest live acts of 2005 by The Tennessean in a Best Show tie between Neil Young at the Ryman and Last Train Home at the Family Wash.
Live at IOTA captures Last Train Home with a stage full of players including guitars, keyboards, drums, bass, pedal steel and horns rambling through a mix of Roots Rock that features touches of folk, bluegrass, soul, country, swing and blues. The band showcases their playing power with a few well- crafted medleys throughout the show. “Quarter to Three/Come Back, Baby” marries an Eric Brace tune with a public domain song, changing the pace from a hurried rhythm into a slow moving sizzle in the process. “Louisiana/Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down/Ain’t Living Like This” puts the words of Eric Brace, Merle Haggard and Rodney Crowell together for ten minutes of audio ecstasy.
Last Train Home cooked on stage and Live at IOTA fully realizes the group’s potential. “Hendersonville”, a tune written by Eric for June and Johnny Cash, tenderly envisions the next step in life, lying beside the one with whom you have walked. “My Sally” is a dark country tale of lost love and bad decisions; “I Flew Over Our House Last Night” is classic country love letters at 30,000 feet, and “Flood” soundtracks the river rising to edgy Alt Country. “Dogs on the East Side” honors Eric Brace’s Red Beet Records home in East Nashville on a Tin Pan Alley influenced tune, and “Say Won’t You Be Mine” closes the live disc with a roof-raising rhythm that surely packed the dance floor back in 2007 during the recording.
Live at IOTA marks a place in musical history with the recording of a band that got it right. Listening to the album, you can tell that Last Train Home is having as good a time as the audience. DANNYMCCLOSKEY/RA
Yarn (from the album Leftovers, Volume 2)
We’re very lucky. Blake Christiana is a prolific man. Leftovers Volume Two takes care of the album doldrums experienced between releases by offering Yarn music ‘left off’ earlier releases. On the heels of the success of Almost Home, Yarn presented Leftovers V2 as the second in a series of albums that focused on tracks that did not make the final selection for previous Yarn albums. Leftovers Volume One mined gems from the band’s self-titled debut. Leftovers Volume Two takes a listen to songs from the Empty Pockets and Come On In studio sessions. Before we get too far into praise I have to fess up, I am a big fan of Yarn. I was hooked in with the Lower East Side take on the sound of The Flying Burrito Brothers and New Riders of the Purple Sage of album number one. Blake Christiana’s words honored the music, then as now, by letting time worn rhythms and melodies cradle his sharp lyrical bite and punk honest words.
Leftovers Volume Two contains tracks that others may walk across broken glass to get their hands on. They might even break the glass themselves if it meant that the chords and lyrics would be their own quicker. There are a few tracks that did not sonically fit into the second two albums in the Yarn catalog. “Blue Skies, Brother Times and Roses” and “Luanne” cross the floor to a rhythm and style that is pure classic country. “Oncoming Train” and “One & Only” have a front porch jam feel. The songs are fully formed but offer more enjoyment than the take-away, stuck in your head tunes that hold up Yarn’s final selections on the early releases.
For an album that hosts the songs left behind, there are tracks that will help you realize just how difficult it must have been to wield the ax. “Turn Your Lights On” is a folk breeze that drifts as much as plays out. “You See the Sun” sticks to folk tones and adds some singing cowboy croons with campfire acoustics for a boardwalk song that lets the Coney Island narrator describe how he truly hopes that opposites attract. “Hard Luck Man” follows a traveling troubadour singer/songwriter, watching him take the lead in the song as much as behind the microphone. As the baton is passed from mentor elder to up and coming artist, a dark murder ballad shows some skin though never really lets on its intentions.
The major keeper on Leftovers, Volume Two is the seemingly autobiographical “On the Radio”. Yarn proclaims that when the radio speakers are playing their songs that “You be happy for me, like I’ll be happy for you. You’ll be singing along, singing my tune”. The story line blurs the line between hoping for fans in the audience and holding out for that one special fan that is there when the lights go low.
Like I said, I love these guys. Yarn really can’t sing a bad song. The group holds a winning hand with the triple threat of Blake Christiana’s choir boy behind the barn vocals and other longtime Yarn members, Trevor MacArthur, backing with guitar and vocals that add to Blake’s lead with consistent, sound branding harmony, and Andrew Hendryx, the world’s number one mandolin shredder. The worth of the tracks on Leftovers V2 is not lost on the band, with Blake Christiana telling that “We are very pleased to share these ‘new’ old songs with our fans. We have always intended to make these tracks available and now is the time. We call them “Leftovers” only were recorded during older sessions for earlier albums. We are just as proud of these songs as we are everything else we have released and hope you enjoy them. As always, thanks for listening”.
Listen and buy the music of Yarn from AMAZON