Back in 2012, on Folk Radio UK we introduced the Madrid based foursome, Track Dogs. A group of ex-pats who have lived in Madrid since 2007, the band take their name from the maintenance teams working the subway tracks in New York City. Comprising two Irishmen; Garrett Wall (Vocals/Guitar) & Dave Mooney (Bass/Vocals), Englishman Howard Brown (Trumpet/Vocals) and Cleveland, Ohio native Robbie K Jones (Cajón/Banjo); the band are about to release their fourth album, Serenity Sessions.
Their lively, melodic and often gently irreverent music has a strong American/Latin sentiment, but there’s a healthy mix of influences from each of band member’s homeland. All tracks (except one memorable cover) are written by the band. The beats, the delivery, the whole package exudes fun. Behind the often jovial lyrics and summer tempo, there’s a treasure trove of precise, expertly performed arrangements and a wealth of perfectly executed close harmonies.
To The End is an instantly enjoyable, smooth start to the album. Brushed snares, light piano and soft, sleepy brass ease airily from the speakers while the warmth of Garrett Wall’s vocal charms the listener. To The End, though, is a sheep in wolf’s clothing. It’s like a gentle summer love song, but there’s a clever bite to those lyrics
It’s easy to spite
I said easy, not right
To let them tell you what to do
Garrett provides the lead vocal throughout the album, but all four band members contribute vocal parts, from straight forward backing to those beguiling close harmonies. Another of the more mellow tracks, Broken Strings, comes over as a gentle waltz; with those harmonies very much a feature. There’s an extra dimension, though, with guest cellist Lucia Otero accompanying Howard Brown’s trumpet. Hearing this song it’s easy to picture the band’s single mike sets, where their bluegrass influences really shine.
The brass is warm and tranquil for the opening, and plaintive for the waltz. Slow numbers are the exception rather than the rule with Track Dogs, however, and if the pace requires it, Howards brass can be as bright and vivacious as fiesta time in Madrid.
So Much Dust is the album’s first toe-tapper, and it’s a peppery, punchy delight. Dave Mooney’s bass keeps a perfect beat alongside Robbie K Jones’ Cajón. That accomplished chorus of voices comes into play, and trumpet seems to take on the role of lead guitar – adding colour and harmony. Don’t Waste Time takes a similarly perky outlook that sees Garrett trade his guitar for a ukulele and the brass further expanded by the guest trombones of Javier Escribano & Norman Frederick Hogue.
Early on, Serenity Sessions establishes an endlessly positive vibe, in the spicy Caribbean beats of Whatever Happens, where Dave Mooney’s mandolin with playful percussion and backing vocals keeps things light.
I caught my love with someone other than me
Hid my heart so she couldn’t see
We all risk it when we play the game
Win, lose it’s all the same
That’s it, no hard feelings
Not me,I’m too busy dreaming
Only Human is a similarly assured, encouraging message; delivered with more than a hint of comedy and exasperation in the vocal. The sound grows beautifully with Robbie’s banjo and a Celtic twang from another Irish ex-pat in Spain, Oisin Breatnach. It’s a song for a mid afternoon at a summer festival, and one that’s guaranteed to bring the crowd to life. That sense of fun is increased to the max with Bon Scott, He Rocked; a bluegrass tribute to the late AC/DC front man with bass and banjo to the fore and those impeccable close harmonies around the mike. The band were inspired to write the song when, during a spot of post-gig refreshment, a jukebox played AC/DC’s ‘It’s A Long Way To The Top If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll’.
It’s surprising how much variety four guys can conjure up. Orion Sees is a far more wistful song, charting adventures under a wide sky while brass, banjo and mandolin rise and fall like clouds tumbling through the blue. While Orion Sees evokes the hot, dry Iberian interior; Love Me Like You Used To seems to take a leap across the Atlantic. Featuring Madrid based electric guitarist El Twanguero, and sitting somewhere between Ry Cooder and Little Feat; it’s a sexy, smoky litany of unrequited love.
The album closes with what has to be a favourite with countless music fans, in a soft as silk version of The Faces’ Ooh La La. This works so well in the album’s context, and the band clearly relish the chance to gently re-work the song. Brass and bass begin to fill the sound after the first couple of verses, and trumpet takes on the melody for a couple of refrains. Let this song carry you to the end of the album – you’ll enjoy the journey.
Try to give the music a name if you will; acoustic-roots, folk-pop – labels don’t really matter and would certainly be difficult to apply. Serenity Sessions is, above everything else, great fun to listen to. Garrett has a fine voice, delivered with such ease, and without a hint of pretension, that the clarity and quality goes all but unnoticed. The sound from Howard’s trumpet seems to have been distilled from pure sunshine. On bass Dave Mooney is just as happy to slap out a punchy bluegrass beat or tone things down with savoury jazz, while Robbie K Jones provides the very pulse of the band on his Cajón, and enriches those American tones with his banjo. All these individual elements fit together in a tight, accomplished unit and, as a result, it’s the music as a whole that shines brightest of all. I would love to see Track Dogs play a host of festival dates; U.K. audiences would be assured a healthy blast of sunshine whatever the weather.
Available via iTunes (UK, Ireland and Spain)
Order physical copies via trackdogsmusic.com
Upcoming Tour Dates
MAY 15 – Madrid Rio, Matadero, Madrid
JUN 02 – CC Torrente Ballester, Ferrol, Spain
JUN 03 – The Harbour Bar, Bray, Co. Wicklow
JUN 04 – Beaulieu House, Drogheda, Ireland (VANTASTIVAL – Goldenplec Stage)
JUN 05 – Tally Ho, Longford, Ireland
JUL 24 – Hunton Village Hall, Hunton, UK
JUL25 – The Bicycle Shop, Norwich, UK