The name Ludlow Creek may put music fans in mind of an Americana outfit with maybe a violin or harmonica player in tow. Coming into their album Hands of Time with those sorts of preconceived notions, however, is a recipe for disappointment. Dayton, Ohio’s Ludlow Creek favors country rock, with a bit of blues and even a smattering of folk. There’s never any sense of them restricting their musical and playing reach over Hands of Time’s eight songs and the loose self-assurance emanating from each of the tracks makes for a satisfying listening experience.

It isn’t reinventing the musical wheel, but there isn’t a single song on his release qualifying as filler, much less a miss. They make this consistency sound as effortless as breathing but it springs from innate chemistry, of course, and the many years Ludlow Creek’s five members and friends have spent making music together. You hear breezy confidence sparking off each second of the album opener “Instant Replay”.

It’s a song with panache and gritty detail. Ludlow Creek’s original material blazes to life for several reasons, but one listeners shouldn’t underrate is the lyrical ability behind these songs. “Instant Replay” has sharply observed imagery at just the right times and vocalist Allen Seals has enough weather in his voice to convince all but the most cynical of listeners. There is a bounce, however, in his singing that pairs well with the song’s musicality.

“Nine Mile Road” has a dollop more of that aforementioned bounce. It never dilutes the relaxed Americana vibe of the band’s performance though and accentuates the lyrical details in a off-handed and low-key fashion. Ludlow Creek’s songs have a deceptively unassuming quality but when you give a close listen to songs such as this, it’s apparent there are surprising depths below the inviting and entertaining surface.

“When I’m With You” is a near pristine ballad lacking any of the syrupy pomp clumsier practitioners regularly embrace. The song slowly unwinds for the listener, never putting the gas down on its development, and has lasting value thanks to such decisions. Ludlow Creek raises the stakes with the album’s title song. “Hands of Time” takes on more, both lyrically and in terms of the arrangement, than the album’s earlier cuts and more than adequately delivers the goods. The songwriting does a particularly excellent job of orchestrating its quieter and “noisier” passages.

The largely acoustic “Picking Up the Pieces” is markedly different from Hands of Time’s remaining seven songs. It covers similar thematic territory, however, without ever feeling like a retread, and the melodic virtues defining its predecessors continue here. Dropping in tasty electric guitar accompaniment over the top is a predictable move, but it pays off big and Ludlow Creek gets a memorable guitar sound for this song.

“Freedom Blues” expands on the ambitions we hear in the title song. Ludlow Creek is never biting off any more than they can chew with this multi-part track. Control is an essential requirement for success when bands attempt going “big” like the Daytona, Ohio five piece are attempting and it’s here as well. One of the biggest ways it leaps out at listeners is how they condense an expansive musical vision without ever compromising their ambitions. “Freedom Blues” ends Ludlow Creek’s debut with accessibility and sophistication.

Sebastian Cole