The Bus Driver Tour | Halfway Between

New Albums

The trio of Danny Freund, Ian Thomas and Danny Lee Kupfer that calls both Livingston and Knoxville, Tenn., home, has just put out a follow-up album to last year’s self-titled release. Conceived as a project to banish overproduction and the shortcomings of digital recording, it utilizes the old-style analog sound to deliver what they call “raw expression and the gleam of imperfection.”

Working with award-winning producer Noel Webster, prior owner of the famed Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, the men crafted a mostly live recording in four days between dates on their spring tour. The result is vintage and authentic.

As is their custom, they composed all the songs, and each sings on his own while trading around guitars, drums, and bass. The fellas have distinctive voices, lending texture to the material. The trio is accompanied on the album by Cornelia Overton on fiddle and vocals, and Josh Oliver on guitars, organ, and vocals.

A chunky Cajun beat fires up the first tune,Thomas’s “Before the Sun Goes Down.” It’s got a shoulder-shakin’ rhythm and nifty guitar and fiddle breaks, with a bluesy mouthful of Thomas harmonica. Freund’s “Rodeo” sports a gentle country beat with fluid guitar accompaniment. There’s interesting timing on the bridge, and the guys sing in unison a bit.

Kupfer’s “Aparcero” is a sweet-tempered ballad about family, expressive and sad with silky fiddle; and his “Where the Wind Goes” really displays that concise analog sound. Spooky with a rock-steady beat highlighting Thomas’s consummate drum work, it’s got lots of reverb and eerie, high ooh-oohs from Overton. Tom-tom, hi-hat, crisp guitar strum, that rich thunk of bass, you gotta love analog! “Atonement can’t forgive us on its own,” go the lyrics. “The chains will always battle if you don’t fully cut them, but they will never fall off on their own.” I swear there’s a nuance of America’s highway sound, except these guys have way more soul.

There’s blues, shuffles, more Cajun, a folky ballad. Lots of ground covered to get you dancin’. Joining them on the road is young Tennessee fiddle player Frank Bronson. Try to catch the band in Montana in early September.

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– Mariss McTucker