Chris Jones & The Night Drivers – Made to Move
Made to Move, the sixth release from Americana steeped outfit Chris Jones & the Night Drivers, is a spectacular reaffirmation of traditional music. This reaffirmation scores in a particular way, however, thanks to the imagination of the musicians involved. The twelve songs on Made to Move, including covers, glitter with fierce artistic fire that still serves the common past and experiences from which these performances spring. This exceptional balance between today and days of yore has such a pleasing effect many listeners, even those not especially enchanted with rustic music, will find themselves utterly beguiled by the band’s choices and approach. Made to Move is rife with influences but, equally so, Jones and the Night Drives emblazon the songs with a distinctive personal touch that far outstrips many contemporary efforts in the same field. This is a superbly produced affair capturing both the details and spirit of the band’s music.
Their spirit is apparent with the first song. “All the Ways I’m Gone” mixes a lot of traditional elements with the band’s own unique sense of humor and construction. The effect is notable. The instrumental facility they exhibit doesn’t appear to have any discernible end and they have a real penchant for making tricky passages sound like something they can dispatch at will. Undoubtedly they can. “I’m a Wanderer” takes a more deliberate approach than the first song reflective of its more serious subject matter and the song definitely shares a plethora of reference points with other similarly minded songs in the tradition. This is a four piece band, but they are impressively able to conjure up expansive musical pieces within a brief amount of time. None of the songs on Made to Move overstay their welcome and the clear-eyed musical vision exhibited by the band never fades or weakens over the course of Made to Move’s twelve songs. The album’s third song, “Dark Hollow”, shows the band brings the same personal verve to covers that livens up their original songs. “Dark Hollow” is a traditional folk/bluegrass standard that often receives a melancholy, blues-strained treatment, but Jones and the Night Drivers avoid the typical and brighten up the song with a more rousing tenor.
“Range Road 53” is a solid and breezy bluegrass number, but “Raindrops Fell” reaches beyond that for something that captures the traditional and commercial aspirations in equal measure. The band never has a heavy touch with these sort of tracks and their careful balance between the standard elements of the style alongside a modern sensibility help such performances stand out. “You Always Come Back (To Hurting Me)” turns their attention to country music with excellent results. Jones has a great voice for country heartbreakers because he understands, quite well, exactly what sort of vocal force these songs need to succeed and never tries hogging the spotlight. The artistry of “Silent Goodbye” recalls the earlier “Raindrops Fell” with ever imitating the latter song and “Sleeping Through the Storm” explores the band’s gospel influences without ever showing a hamfisted evangelical approach. “The Old Bell” comes late in the album, but another side of the band’s talents emerges quite vividly from this narrative lyric and its complementary musical arrangement. Made to Move is the peak achievement, so far, from Chris Jones & the Night Drivers and they seem like a band still working hard even after six releases.
9 out of 10 stars
William Elgin III