The Apache Relay: American Nomad

I think sometimes, everyone gets lost in the hustle bustle of life. Things are pushed back in place of seemingly more important things, or important things lose their meaning because of unforeseen circumstances. I’ve had such a hectic schedule at work lately that I haven’t been able to write on the blog as much as I would like. I apologize for that – hopefully after today, things will calm down again. But what really led me to thinking about that was my day yesterday. I had the pleasure of attending the Bristol, VA/TN Gentlemen of the Road Stopover that was organized by Mumford and Sons. When I first heard rumors that they were coming to town (I live near Bristol), I couldn’t believe it. When they announced the Stopover was going to be here, I really couldn’t believe it. While it was a long, hot day almost entirely in the direct sunlight, it was bliss. At one point while Mumford was playing, I looked up at the lights and realized that was what I loved most in life. Nothing compares to being packed in a crowd of people who are fans of the band you’re seeing and you’re screaming the lyrics together as one.

If you don’t know much about the Stopovers, it was basically a let’s roll into town and invite all the local stores, vendors, restaurants, etc. out to one hell of a day where we bring 15,000+ people into one small area. It was fantastic. It also meant that Mumford needed bands to play the other slots during the day since it was set up as a festival of sorts, which also gives added exposure to other bands. My friends and I got to Stage 1 and had the pleasure of hearing The Apache Relay play first. And while it was a change in schedule and they were originally slated to play Stage 2, boy am I glad they played Stage 1. With a thirty minute set, they had excellent, unique sound and a phenomenal stage presence. They were also very kind as a whole – I got to meet a few of the members and they were gracious and took time to speak to us and thank us. After this experience, I knew I had to listen to their album. And this is what the real point of this post is.

Their 2011 disc American Nomad starts off with Can’t Wake Up, a song they played live when I saw them yesterday. It’s a slow starting track that has all the potential for an explosion on stage that has an even better end result than the build-up. The song is easy going, but chock full of beautiful noises. Michael Ford Jr.’s voice was so captivating live and translates just as well on recording. His voice is gentle and smooth while remaining powerful when the time comes. He has incredible control over his vocals in the live show, even when the song takes over and major rocking out is required.

Mission Bells slows it down in the most delicate of ways. This band has a great knack for using the tambourine to their greatest advantage. It was busted out many times yesterday during the two sets I saw them do. I also should mention here that Kellen Wenrich’s fiddle playing is superb and this song showcases that (also the man has mad dance moves).

Lost Kid was my favorite song that I heard them perform and it remains my favorite on the disc. The drumming really kicks it up a notch in the beginning of this song before the song really comes at you full force with an array of instruments backing the drumming creating perfect harmony and a wonderland in my ears.

I also had the fortune of seeing Watering Hole performed twice. This song shows real blues influence at the core. Ford’s vocals are as spot-on as ever in this track. Maybe it’s the influence of seeing it twice live, but I think this song out of all of them may perfectly show the band’s pure talent from every corner. Everything is so wonderfully meshed together in this song that it takes a couple of listens to really hear all the instruments working as one and as a whole.

The album wraps up with Some People Change, a slower song that is a beautiful wrap-up to a great album. This track is calming and peaceful and again makes excellent use of a good tambourine. The guitar and the fiddle stand out in this number, lulling so quietly and perfectly it was almost as though to put you to sleep.

As I expected, the album was as great as the live show that these guys put on. I was impressed yesterday after I saw them, and I remain impressed right now after listening to this album. There’s something special in this band that needs to be noticed. Incorporating folk, indie and blues styles into a rock music blender, The Apache Relay create some tunes that you won’t soon be able to shake. I’m going to be listening to this for a while. (And here’s an incentive: Amazon has this record for $5!)

 

Key Tracks
Lost Kid (track 6)
Watering Hole (track 7)
Can’t Wake Up (track 1)

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