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Follow the Train, "A Breath of Sigh"

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On the surface, Follow the Train’s full-length debut has it all. The production is sumptuous, and the skilled musicians frequently create gorgeous, yearning passages. Even the cover is vaguely arty and aesthetically pleasing. Scratching a little deeper, however, I found ordinary lyrics, sometimes painfully so, and little else that generates much excitement.

Darla

It seems that songwriter and vocalist Dennis Sheridan has been going through some growing pains recently, from realizing the value of unfulfilled yesteryears on “Endless Summer,” to his disastrous yet unrepentant loquaciousness on “I’m Not Sorry,” to his existential fears on “Afraid.” He rarely sings above a whisper, as if his anguish is too great for him to raise his voice. Given the not-quite-poetry of the album’s title, I’m not surprised. It’s probably for the best, though, considering how unremarkable the lyrics are when looking closer in places. I’m certainly not questioning Sheridan’s sincerity, but the ways he sings combined with the simplicity of some of the lyrics themselves makes any genuinely grand emotions he conveys sound trite.

The music is so well played at the beginning that I didn’t pay attention to the lyrics until the aforementioned “I’m Not Sorry.” When he sings, “I’m not sorry/But I’m still sad/I still feel sad,” I can only roll my eyes at his self-pity. I thought things might get a little more exciting with a song called “Up in Flames” in which he even mentions the words “Rebel Yell,” but alas he’s only talking about the song by Billy Idol and not the bourbon of the same name, which would have been appropriate considering that the group is from Kentucky. Coincidentally, the name of the song that follows is “Kentucky,” and it is also the album’s nadir. When Sheridan shares the profound revelation that “Kentucky/Is beautiful,” I have to agree. On the couple of dozen North-South trips I’ve made in my life, Kentucky has always been one of the biggest highlights (sorry, Indiana!) with its dramatic hills and exposed rock, yet I would think that such a breathtaking landscape would inspire a sentiment more vivid than “Is beautiful.” While it’s no “Georgia On My Mind,” this song should at least guarantee the band a coveted slot at the state fair.

In some ways, this feels like a waste of good musicians but sometimes the band isn’t helping. Although the music is well-played, it does little to distinguish itself from its Anglophilic leanings apart from some enjoyable synth flourishes. In all honesty, though, the album is so glossy, unobtrusive, and self-absorbed that there could be a couple of Top 40 hits buried within it and the band will likely have the last laugh as I’m forced to hear them piped out of clothing stores at malls, in car commercials, and during the parts of romantic comedies where the estranged couple dramatically reunites. Until that happens, and it very well could, I’ll be doing my part to bolster Kentucky’s economy by the quantity of Jack Daniels I’m about to consume after hearing this.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 February 2011 10:12  


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