Full disclosure: This review is not as fair and balanced, as say, Fox news. Trust me, I’m no Sarah Palin. I am not pretending to tell the whole story, nor should I for multiple reasons. I first met The Corduroy Road on the third floor of the commons area at a small liberal arts school in southwest Virginia. I had received a five song EP of theirs a few weeks before and I was intrigued to put a face with the words that I had connected with so quickly. On stage, four young kids exploded with energy. The crowd was shell-shocked. Banjos are nothing new in this part of the country, but the instrument was being plucked faster than a stock car around the high banks in Bristol. I started thinking these guys just might have what it takes to make it big.
A good band needs a great album, and the masterful work of legendary Athens producer John Keane on Love is a War seemed to produce the LP the boys needed to take the next step. Fans ate it up like it was prime rib night at the Jumbo Buffet. Right away, I started hoping for a live album. As good as Keane made them sound, their bread and butter was in live performing. I was intrigued to see if that stage show could be captured in audio disc format. My wish came true with Live at the 40 Watt.
I’ve heard too many great songs in multiple states. I needed more memories. The Corduroy Road has the ability to take a song you’ve heard a million times before and make it new. It’s what makes a new crowd able to connect with them so quickly. You constantly find yourself thinking, "Man, I know I’ve heard this before." Their traditional covers of old mountain staples like "June Apple," "Reuben’s Train," and "Mule Skinner Blues" on Live at the 40 Watt are anything but old hand-me-downs. Imagine someone taking Doc’s Gallagher guitar, electrifying it, adding a Wah-Wah pedal, and duct taping it to his foot. That’s what life is like on The Corduroy Road.
The album features one of my favorite new additions to the band in the voice of bassist Elijah NeeSmith. His voice is just dirty enough to grease the "Gamblin’ Wheel." Banjo player Drew Carmon’s love of both women and the South shine in "Three Friends." Plus, I could listen to Dylan Solise’s country warning voice on "Hope you Never Know" over and over.
Yet every road has an end, and as "Mule Skinner Blues" fades away, the crowd is left pleading for one last song like they’re trying to hold on to the magic of that night for just a few more moments. I am. Unfortunately, the cliché is right: All good things do come to an end. I am lucky enough to call The Corduroy Road friends of mine (they even played my wedding this past October). Just like the crowd on Live at the 40 Watt, I will always be left wanting one more encore, but I’m glad I’ve heard what I’ve heard.
The self-released Live at the 40 Watt is now available.