Banjo-driven songs about love and hate, drinking and sinning, and hoping for the best but being ready for when it all inevitably goes to hell, is what The Lonesome City Travelers do, and they do it damn well. Their lyrics are genuine and straightforward – it isn’t so much that they embrace being sinners, they just don’t apologize for it. Their honesty is very subtle, as it’s easy to get lost in the music or the compelling harmonies, but underlying it all is a brutally candid telling about how easily life can go wrong, about how we always love the wrong woman even when we know we shouldn’t, about how enough is never enough and how we always pay for it in the end. This is a brilliant album, full of truth and sincerity, and a realistic appraisal of how we continue to go on regardless of how hopeless it all might feel.
The band is comprised of two sets of brothers and you can sense that familial closeness in their music, in their harmonies, and in the way they negotiate subject matter that most bands stay far away from. The album starts out very strong, with the opening track being everything that one could hope for in a song. The harmonizing that starts in the second refrain is truly mesmerizing, with the prickly, wandering banjo in the background completing the feel and the mood. Just as you’re about to be lilted into a blissful stupor, at 2:40 the song changes, and comes charging right back at you and finishes on an upbeat, hopeful sentiment that sets the stage perfectly for the songs that are to come.
Strong offerings include “Abigail”, a song about loving a girl you know you shouldn’t, and “Young”, an unrepentant ode to youthful indiscretion and then not giving a damn as you get older and refuse to change. This is an amazing album filled with songs about lust and anger, drugs and booze, bad women and hard times – it’s really an album about life, it doesn’t make excuses, and if you don’t like it, I really doubt it’d care.