You probably know the members of American Drive as four-fifths of J.D. Crowe’s last version of the New South. When Crowe called it a day, guitarist/vocalist Rickey Wasson, mandolinist/vocalist Dwight McCall, resonator guitarist/vocalist Matt Despain, and bassist Kyle Perkins kept the band together and signed with Rural Rhythm. Joining the band for their debut is banjoist Justin Jenkins from Grasstowne. Jenkins has since returned to Grasstowne.
For their debut, they’ve programmed a 12-song mix that includes original material, some new songs, a couple of covers and one true standard. “Long Haul Trucking Man,” the opener written and sung by McCall, impresses as a potential chart song. Everyone loves a good trucking song, and this is an attractive effort, one with a trailer-load of detail, an insistent beat and vibrant, tenor singing. Wasson then sings Goble and Drumm’s “Willow Creek Dam,” with its defiant, clever line: Damn the man who dams the creeks. His deep, laconic delivery puts the desolation of the song’s theme over perfectly, while its medium bounce lends a sense of optimism. He follows that with “War Is Hell,” a tragic look at a veteran’s post-war life and ending. Those three and “From Where I Stand,” the yearning gospel tune on track five, makes for a strong opening third.
The next few tracks flag a bit. Each of them, including a too-fast version of Don Williams’ hit “Some Broken Hearts Never Mend,” the speed of which removes much of the necessary pathos, lacks the spark that demands replay. They’re well-played and convincing enough, but the material doesn’t match that of the opening tracks. Bill Castle’s “Cowboys Still Act Like Cowboys,” sung with an appropriate weariness by Wasson, rises highest among them. The band, however, recovers and ends this solid, predominantly engaging debut with the fine old orphan tune “Nobody’s Child” and a rousing cover of the always popular standard, “Gotta Travel On.” (Rural Rhythm, P.O. Box 750. Mt. Juliet, TN 37121, www.ruralrhythm.com.)BW