The Lowdown Drifters, comprised of Big John Cannon, Galen Bailey, Richard Williams, Tim Fernley, and Ryan Klein, are a country band hailing from Stanwood, WA. Since forming in 2015 they released an EP, Wood and Water, in 2016 and their debut full-length album, Last Call for Dreamers, last month.
They lead with a testament to the power of friendship on “We Three Kings,” a percussion-heavy ballad set amongst the confines of growing up in a small town. “Won’t Find Me Anymore” celebrates the rebel spirit, with a southern rock vibe to rival the outlaws they pay tribute to throughout. The intriguing “Fire in her Eyes,” which has an ear-catching melody that grabbed me instantaneously, is an excellent character sketch of a complex woman, who is as tender as she is strong.
The musician’s life is a major theme on the album, approached by many different perspectives. The road is beckoning on “Diesel Smoke,” which finds a musician confronted by his wife, who doesn’t want him to leave for another run of shows. He says the lifestyle is in his blood, much like it was for his father when he was a kid.
The wife who is slowly losing her patience on “Diesel Smoke,” has walked out of the marriage on “The Road,” which causes the musician to see the dark side of the choices he’s made. In a painfully effecting lyric he confesses to himself how he should’ve put her needs before his own, especially since for him, the road doesn’t feel like home anymore.
A much sunnier take on the subject can be found on the banjo-driven “Barstools,” an album highlight celebrating the barroom gigs musicians find themselves playing when they’re just starting out. It’s an excellent look at how there is always another gig to play and a song to “sing you back home.”
There may always be gigs, but on “Last Night in Denver,” another standout track, they prove the musician’s life isn’t as glamorous as it’s made out to be. On the uptempo number, a man wonders what he has to do — say he’s from Nashville, write a song with someone you know, wear tight t-shirts, etc — to gain the attention of the public. ‘Last night in Denver, I slept in my car’ he sings begrudgingly, hoping his luck will soon turn around.
A man is confronting his own worst enemy, himself, on the powerful “Between The Bottom and the Bottle.” Directly following it is “This Old House,” in which he’s hit rock bottom in the basement, only to be haunted by the woman who left him. The only way he’ll be free, he sings, is to burn the home, and all the memories, to the ground. “Black Hat,” a third song in this relationship trifecta, finds our man telling his woman he’ll gladly be her punching bag, the one she can lay all the blame on for the disintegrating state of their relationship.
“Empty Bottles” is a completely different take on a relationship, this time with a man confronting his own sobriety in the wake of his wife cheating on him with his best friend. He confesses he’s been sober for so long he just may need to end his streak, since empty bottles keep calling him, and he can’t think of any other way to cope with the situation. The wonderful “Diamonds and Rust” is a working man’s anthem that morphs into another take on a relationship, this time in a happier stage, when the love is blossoming.
Last Call for Dreamers is an excellent and complex record filled with richly textured stories framed with electric energy ripe for arenas. It’s a hard balance to get right, but they succeed since they didn’t forget the songs, which actually have something important to say to the listener. I can’t wait to see what they give us in the years to come.