Grand Drive’s fourth album is another rhinestone gem of alt-country. Soulful Americana songs ride alongside hillbilly pop and haunting ballads. Overall, the feel of the album is easy-listening, so much so that it’s reclining by a lone cactus with cowboy hat tipped forward. Which makes it all the more hilarious that this quartet hail from Surrey, not Nashville Tennessee.
The Lights In This Town Are Too Many To Count is in the same vein as the foursome’s previous three albums, Road Music (1999), True Love and High Adventure (2000) and See The Morning In (2002). All have that nostalgic sound with the ole slide guitar, shimmering vocals and soft lolling beats.
Singer songwriters in the band, brothers Julian and Danny Wilson, take direct influences from Bruce Springsteen, Johnny Cash and Wilco. Though if you like Tom Petty and the harmonies of The Jayhawks and the Beach Boys then you’ll probably like this band too.
One of the band’s strengths is singer Danny’s distinctive and malleable voice, at times high and reedy like a cross between Bob Dylan and Neil Young, at other times soft and cut-glass delicate. But when it comes to the songs, a few of them are too over-sentimental for me.
Opening track Love and the Truth is one of them with the line “like a lemon you lose the peel” in what is a pretty boring song that begins with just vocals and glimmering guitar until finally the drums enter three-and-a-half-minutes later. Guitar-strumming ode I Believe In Love is another with the lyrics “just believe me when I say, there ain’t a single thing that I would want to change, wouldn’t want you any other way” behind what sounds like a karaoke backing-track.
But then there are beauties such as Lady of Mine that trembles with such ethereal melancholy it’s like hearing a soulful midnight ballad upon an open veranda. It’s simple, plaintive and touching. The lady in question: “She needs me, she’s my winter coat, she’s the place I call home.”
Also the confessional Santa Rita, a delicate late-night Americana ballad, is stunning in its haunting dreaminess and open lyrics: “Forgive me Santa Rita this is all new, I never thought I’d need to ask you, I never thought you’d hear me say, I’m lost and can’t find my way”. The languid instrumental finale wills you to get lost in your own darkest recesses.
Then there’s breezier songs such as These Aren’t Words, a poppy melodic Fountains Of Wayne-style track that is thick with multi-track soothing vocals. The electric shimmer of Me and My Star is upbeat and haunting with the line “I remember you but I don’t want to”, while easy-beat The Real Thing is a open-road summery song that comes with impassioned guitar solo.
The best and most striking song by far the is last track, Your Final Hour, a real hazy slow-burner lasting almost seven minutes. It’s blissed out, full of harmonies and is rich with layered off-synch vocals that soothe you in to a deep state of anaesthesia.
So fans of Grand Drive won’t be disappointed with this accomplished album. It will be too saturated in sugar-coated soul-searching for some, though if you’ve been pondering on love or been lovelorn of late, this is the perfect accompaniment. For those who want umph in their music: go elsewhere.