Relationships are at the heart of most songs—relationships gone right and those that go wrong. There are the relationships that give us a reason to live and those that leave us questioning everything. “Last Good Kiss,” the latest album from the Nashville band Last Train Home, is filled with songs that explore the boundaries of those relationships and examine how they intersect with each other, and they are played with heartbreaking earnestness.
Usually considered to be a leading alt-country or Americana band, Last Train Home is exploring new ground in this album. While some songs contain colorings of alt-country, most of the songs on this album fall into the category of indie-rock. The prevalence of electric guitar, played by Steve Wedemeyer either in understated and minimalist guitar solos or in shimmeringly resonant curtains of chords are all perfectly rendered in the most economical fashion, ends up giving the album a closer connection to rock music. It’s really the subject matter of relationships that ties it to country music, providing a link to the Hank Williams tradition of songwriting. Also helping to break the sound of the group away from alt-country is Jen Gunderman on keyboards, like the pulsing Rhodes piano accompaniment on “You” and even on accordion, surely one of the most underutilized instruments in popular music. Rounding out the group are Jim Gray on electric bass and Martin Lynds on drums and percussion, laying down the solid tracks that this train runs on. Kevin Cordt plays trumpet on a couple of numbers, further taking the music away from the country realm and treading on the boundaries of jazz and Latin music. His boozy beautiful solo on “The Color Blue” is playfully sexy. If you can say anything about Last Train Home, it’s that they know how to play as a group—intuiting both how to step back and support each other, and how to step out front and shine. There’s a level of comfort and confidence that infuses all their performances on this album.
Frontman Eric Brace wrote most of the songs on “Last Good Kiss.” In fact, Brace wrote all of them except for guitarist Steve Wedemeyer’s tune “Can’t Come Undone.” The songs range from seductively timed ballads (Go Now) to energetically driving tunes (Last Good Kiss). If there’s a consistency to the songs on this album, it’s that they’re all consistently excellent. Brace delivers the vocals with sincerity and authenticity that is nearly devastating—every note and phrase rings of heartfelt and life-lived truth. And if there is a better vocalist working the scene at this time, I really don’t know who it could be. His voice is colored in turns by passion, weariness, elation, and angst. Eric Brace is the real deal. “Last Good Kiss” is a significant step forward in the evolution of a great band, and could very well be the best album of their career. This gets my highest recommendation.
Tracks: Last Good Kiss, Flood, Anywhere But Here, Can’t Come Undone, Go Now, May, You, I’m Coming Home, Kissing Booth, Marking Time, The Color Blue
– Hermon Joyner