Closely Watched Trains' self-titled debut album is flawless. The group hails from New Haven, and consists of guitarist and vocalist Jon Schlesinger, drummer John Gage, violinist Taralyn Bulyk and bassist John Leonard. The band is super tight and recorded a really fine album.
Slow, sweet tunes sit like bookends on either side of the album. On the opening track "Viva Knieval," banjo and slide guitar sail effortlessly along and evoke a blustery day in the country, which acts as a nice introduction to the album, and it closes with flowing picking and slide on "Girl of My Dreams." You can quickly tell that the band is capable of creating beautiful sweet songs, but it's not just an album of pretty, laid back tunes. From the folk stomp of "Frames" to the slow build to the wild solo on "Emerald City," CWT shows they're not afraid to rock out once in a while, either. As a whole, the album works beautifully, and is a pleasure from start to finish.
The album has a folksy, rootsy, and almost classic rock undertone, and while they sound more than a bit like Phish, they never steps into the lengthy improvisational realm of being a jam band. If Billy Breathes was your favorite Phish album, this is for you. The album mixes modern rock sensibilities with the sounds of old weird America: squelching e-bow guitar work is layered on top of violins and harmonica; classic acoustic picking and vocal harmonies mixing with fuzzy guitar solos.
New Haven's Closely Watched Trains debut album was released late last year on DIY label Twin Lakes Records. They are giving it away for free for a limited time right on their Facebook fan page.