Californian duo Button Willow Locomotive combine a random sounding band name with some smart songwriting on their debut LP, Eight Tracks. Amanda Carson and Alex Heflin are both singer-songwriters, who met and duly joined forces while at university in Irvine, California.
It’s not surprising then that this is an album of songs rather than sounds: the shared vocals and acoustic guitars have the run of the record; the brushed drums are used sparingly; and, if you listen closely enough, you might be able to identify a bass guitar. But this is how the Locomotive rolls, and, for the most part, it’s to their credit. Country shuffle “The One With The Moon” with its knowingly innocent, self-deprecating lyrics, is the perfect showcase for Carson’s vocal talents, as she switches effortlessly from the confidential tone adopted in verses to full on confessional mode in the choruses, a ploy used again in the irresistibly melodic “Say it”, when she implores in the chorus, “Say it by the sea/ And I know I could be/ Anyone.”
The loose vocal style of Heflin is a more than capable foil to all this, forthright but with a tendency to waver from the notes, which is no bad thing when it underpins the lyrics, as it does on the banjo and mandolin-fuelled “Wave it Off”, but a little grating when the vocal duties are shared, notably in the rousing final chorus to “Oh Dear”. It’s probably fair to say the balance between the two singer-songwriters is something they’re still working out.
Thoughtfully crafted and with clear melodic flair, Eight Tracks is a promising debut. Bewildering name notwithstanding, Button Willow Locomotive have the potential for a great future in music ahead of them.