Eric Brace & Last Train Home - Everything Will Be
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Everything Will Be (Red Beet, 2022)

Eric Brace & Last Train Home

Reviewed by Jim Hynes

Leader Eric Brace rounds up his bandmates in Last Train Home for the band's 11th album, "Everything Will Be." Into its third decade, the band is like a collective with revolving members, but the three principals - Brace, bassist Jim Gray and drummer Martin Lynds - formed the unit in D.C in the late '90s and relocated to Nashville 18 years ago. Brace, who penned or co-penned seven of the 11 tunes also has frequent collaborator Thomm Jutz co-writing two songs and engineering the Nashville sessions.

Due to the pandemic and contributions from guests, the album was also recorded in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Marland and D.C., comprising nine studios in total. Long-time member Jen Gunderman is no longer aboard, and the talented Kevin McKendree steps in on keyboards for five of the tunes. Of course, all kinds of guitars, banjos, mandolins, horns and even a string arrangement are in the infectious and varied mix as the band explores New Orleans brass bands. sambas, Bakersfield, British Isles folk-rock, bluegrass and touches of electronica. Guitarist Jared Bartlett, another long-time cohort, co-produced with Brace and engineered.

The harmonies echo and shimmer with one tune having all eight band members contributing. Brace's opening melodic title track features jangling guitars and an optimistic theme that welcomes the listener. The Jutz-Craig Martin co-write "Lily of the Day" is a gorgeous rumination on the passage of time and fleeting beauty with strong spots from pianist McKendree and pedal steel player Dave Van Allen.

Guest Laura Tsaggaris' harmonies glow on "Language" as does Chris Watling's tenor sax while the NOLA brass band sound imbues "If I Had a Nickel." The Brace-Jutz "Just a Moment" features the full band and a keening baritone guitar from Scott McKnight. Bartlett's burning electric guitar solo on the outro for "In the Dark" is yet another unexpected touch. This is a band of sonic explorers.

The covers are a mixed bag. They take John Hartford's "The Six O'clock Train and a Girl with Green Eyes" as a samba with gorgeous horn parts and end with all singing on the Scottish ballad "When I'm Dead and Gone." Johnny Mercer's "I'm an Old Cowhand (from the Rio Grande)" suffers from excess, but it's a tiny misstep in an otherwise inviting project. Brace and Last Train Home continue to be one of roots music's most enduring and inventive bands.

CDs by Eric Brace & Last Train Home

Everything Will Be, 2022 Daytime Highs & Overnight Lows, 2020

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