The new CD by Chris Jones and the Night Drivers is entitled Made to Move. I hadn’t really intended on writing a piece about it but, upon further review, I believe I will. Rather than a full blown review- below are some notes about each song and the overall album. It’s more of a ‘journal entry’ than a review, but I wanted to share it with you.
I like the two possible meanings in the title. Sometimes things, situations, opportunities, irritations, etc. cause us to act/move. There’s some of that here. There is a lot about movement and modes of travel, etc. in the music, but for the most part, it’s not about the restlessness of discontentment or such things. The second meaning, that some people are made for the purpose of going about seeking things or spreading news & knowledge- or in this case, singing songs- is the focus. The troubadour is manifest in these songs.
The project opens with All the Ways I’m Gone– a fun, bluesy little sojourn into metaphors and ultimata (and a shoutout to Wrigley Field, Muddy Waters and Bill Monroe. That’s a trifecta, I believe.)
Then we go to one of the strongest songs of the group: I’m a Wanderer. Here’s the chorus:
“I’m a wanderer, I’m a pilgrim. I was made to move to the beat of my own drum. On my way to God’s great kingdom, grateful for the road ahead, grateful for the miles I have come…”
There is a wonderful group of pilgrim songs in traditional music (I am a Pilgrim, Farther Along, The Pilgrim (Marty Stuart), The Pilgrim, ch 33 (Kristofferson) for a few, off the cuff). The hardships of life and the hope of life after this one are common themes. The idea of ‘I was made for being here, though it’s not home, but I’ll be home someday’ is well stated here and gives the song a firm place beside those stalwarts. I’m a sucker for good pilgrim songs because they have been very sustaining throughout my life in various ways.
Dark Hollow is a tune that has been around a long time and has seen many versions, but few adaptations. The Jones crew changes that here. Putting the tune in a minor key and changing the ‘focus’ of the tempo (if not the tempo itself), is brilliantly done. having a midsection of the traditional reading is quite nice and almost a ‘release’ when it appears.
Range Road 53- Even wandering pilgrims love to remember what home was. Sometimes, they even try to return.
Raindrops Fell- They (pilgrims) often fall in love along the way, whether they mean to or not. Often those scenes become, among other things, sustenance for the journey.
Living Without- Often, a journey begins when someone leaves a pilgrim. Then they are free to begin their own journey. This tale of unrequited love has some wonderful string work on mandolin by Mark Stoffel and fiddle by Jeremy Garrett.
You Always Come Back (To Hurting Me)– I was so glad to see this tune on the track list. The songs that Johnny Rodriguez wrote & recorded in his prime are just golden. It is largely true to the original, but Jones & Gina Clowes’ voices work well together and provide a freshness to the old nugget.
Last Frost- When Ned Luberecki left the Night Drivers after the last CD (Run Away Tonight), there were more than a few eyebrows raised in the Bluegrass community. Though it was amicable by all accounts, his banjo work seemed to be so essential to the Night Drivers sound that it was a little hard for some to imagine the next step. That next step was Gina Clowes. Not only does she do a great job in covering Luberecki’s tracks on catalog material, but her presence shines on this project. Her harmonies are spot on and her banjo work is incredible. Whether in ‘drive’ or ‘melody’ mode, she is a perfect match for the three gentlemen of the group. This instrumental allows Clowes and Stoffel and Jones to stretch out a bit while Jon Weisberger holds them in a steady time. It is a lovely, relaxed tune with an old time feel.
Silent Goodbye- I’m going to need to listen to this and track 11- The Old Bell- more at a later time. They are not difficult, but I don’t think I’m focused enough on them to make any comment. Perhaps I just prefer to be hit with musical 2x4s…
Sleeping through the Storm- a retelling of Jesus’ calming the storm (as told in Matt 8, Mark 4, Luke 8) and the peace that affords His disciples then and now. Told in more of a Dr. Ralph than King James style, of course. Strongest song on the last half of the CD, though two of those are instrumentals.
What the Heck?!- Instrumental featuring Mark Stoffel (primarily) doing what he does so well.
There are 4-5 songs on here that are or will soon likely get airplay. The whole album is enjoyable. The strong tunes are extremely strong. Wanderer is the best cut, to my ear. It sounds like the same thing I said about the Aldridges’ new CD, but it’s true: as good as I thought their last CD (Run Away Tonight) was, this is better. In this case, the last one was all about momentum to get to the top of a hill (for a metaphor) and the new one is like hitting the long straightaway and cruising at a high, but comfortable rate of speed.