Last Train Home is a Washington, D.C. band that has a lot going for it: solid instrumental work, a prolific songwriter in front man Eric Brace, and vocals that are polished and thoughtful. On their debut, all of these qualities are evident - and yet, as good as the CD is, there is something missing.
Part of the reason may be an over-reliance on mid-tempo songs ruminating on abandonment and lost love. Those are staple subjects in country and country-rock, of course, but here the sound is rarely relieved by uptempo kickers or genuinely slow ballads. Instead, the material seems almost stuck in a rut, with the country touches of pedal steel guitar, mandolin and delicious harmony singing taking a back seat to Brace's single-mindedly melancholy singing and arrangements that start strong, but don't usually go anywhere. That assessment may sound a little harsh; after all, there is some good, sophisticated songwriting here, especially Brace's "Who Could Blame Me" and "Long Time Gone," and the band's attention to detail lifts it out of the ordinary.
Still, the higher the skill level, the greater the expectations. Last Train Home has a lot of talent, but they haven't yet figured out how to put it all together. (Adult Swim Records, Box 1535, Arlington, VA 22210-0835)