J. Charles And The Trainrobbers – Upon Leaving – Review

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J. Charles And The Trainrobbers, the resulting brain child of, you guessed it, J. Charles Saenz, have had a remarkable group and musical maturation over the two short years they have collectively been a band. After coalescing a group of five rag-tag rapscallions and fufilling his ambition of creating an equal-parts rock and country outfit. I personally don’t know who would wear Chuck Taylors and a straw cowboy hat, but I also didn’t think we needed jars that had peanut butter and jelly premixed, the later of course I found out we need at all costs. Either way, this Dallas, TX five-piece has furnished their first full-length “Upon Leaving” which was released recently through End Sounds Records and seeks to do just that; combine two potent genres into one memorable listen.

The record begins (after a harmonious intro “Upon Leaving”) with the listener saddling up to a twangy, country driven set of slide-morphed riffs and a mixture of crooned (J. Charles) and songbird (Taylor Rae) vocals in “Mercy Killing.” It’s an outing that really sets the stage for the rest of the record. You can hear the passion and personality in it, both musically and in memorable purpose-driven lyrics like “There’s a bullet here for me, a bullet here for you. The only problem is that we love each other too damn much to shoot.” “Upon Leaving” jumps out of its comfort zone with the indie-rock pacing and folk delivery of “Three Shades Of Black” that helps the record steer clear of being labeled a one trick country pony by having more range and diversity up its sleeve, which the genre and it’s listeners sometime lack.

J. Charles and pedal steeler Danny Crelin take liberty with a slide bar and elevate songs like “Anthem Of A Stranger” and “Blood On The Wind” into more than just made-for-radio tracks that most country acts seek to make. It appears to be more about the journey with this outfit, as torrential stories drive their music, allowing for a sound to develop from a promising set of lyrics rather than visa versa. The last few mellow tracks, “Ain’t So Blue” and “Darling” are both a sharp contrast of the hurried songs from the second half of the record and take the time to build a sturdy musical foundations.

A place for improvement? Well, there are very few times when J. actually lays off the slide and plays his guitars straight, leading to the record having the musical accuracy of a trombone rather than a trumpet. Also, while Taylor Rae’s beautiful vocals are delivered with a smooth and charming demeanor, J.’s often either teeter into flat or just sound intoxicated. Maybe it’s my inexperience with the country twang, who knows. And while those things may take away from “Upon Leaving” on the whole, J. Charles And The Trainrobbers have put passion and storytelling ahead of mastery this time around, which really doesn’t hurt the way the record sounds — seeing as most folk artists record their albums on bales of hay. This record will sink in deep for country and slide-bar lovers alike, leaving most to pass by it on their way to Taylor Swift or Jason Aldean‘s latest boring record about southern love and trackers and such. [Staff]

Score: 3 (out of 5)

Release Date: October 16th, 2012
Record Label: End Sounds Records
Genre: Country
RIYL: Country, Country, Country

Track Listing:
1. Upon Leaving
2. Mercy Killing
3. Letter to a Thief
4. Something Wrong
5. Three Shades of Black
6. Million Reasons
7. My Year
8. Anthem of a Stranger
9. Ain’t So Blue
10. Blood on the Wind
11. Darling, Can’t You Hear Me
12. Tennessee Roads (No Moon)
13. Upon Leaving 2

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