The pending release, Lay These Weapons Down, confirms what most locals already know: Rebecca Rego & the Trainmen are a force to be reckoned with. The band’s sound is most obviously rooted somewhere in the “Americana” realm, though less so on LTWD than the band’s previous release, Tolono. Tolono is excellent in its own right, but LTWD demonstrates impressive range, convincingly spanning several genres.
The opening track, “Steamroller,” for instance, is pretty familiar Americana territory. Lilting violins remind me of Andrew Bird for a minute, but any comparison is fleeting: RRTM really just sound like RRTM.
On “Drag Me Out of Here,” Rego’s vocals are pure, silky, classic doo-wop. The dry growl of the upright bass, the cheerful horns, and the backing vocals all further buttress this seamless transition out of one genre into the next. All the while, the album remains cohesive and congruent. Each track feels right at home on LTWD. Overall, there is a somber gravitas to the album. It feels less fantastical than Tolono, more confessional, more introspective. The production is outstanding, and further compounds the sense of maturity.
Standout tracks include the opening song "Steamroller,” “Just the Same Mess,” and title track “Lay These Weapons Down.” “Steamroller” grabs you right away. The lyrics are compelling, and the delivery is convincing; the guitar is tasteful and soulful. By fifteen seconds into “Just the Same Mess,” you will realize that you are caught deep in Rego’s web of feels. “Why couldn’t I be born, more black or white? Want to be like my sister, she’s so satisfied,” she sings over delicate guitar and drums. “Lay These Weapons Down” contains the best hook on the entire album, as Rego belts out the eponymous lyric; each repeat getting just a little bit less restrained.
Lay These Weapons Down is an excellent album, absolutely deserving a download. While Rego’s vocals are immediately accessible, and likely to draw you in on the first listen, there is a lot of subtle instrumentation on this album that rewards repeat listening. Guitar, bass, horns, keyboard, drums, violin - it’s all there, composed and performed expertly. Nothing is overdone; no member outshines the rest - each part serves the song and in turn serves the album. The result is one of the best albums to come out of C-U this year.
Rebecca Rego and The Trainmen at the Hogchute Opry, 2016.
Catch Rebecca Rego & the Trainmen at Cowboy Monkey on Friday, October 21st, as they celebrate the release of Lay These Weapons Down! They will be joined by local favorites Elsinore and Church Booty. The show starts at 9 p.m. and tickets are $10.