Jeff Road – Come Ride with Me
Quietly and with great skill, Jeff Road assembled one of the most memorable turns into traditional rockabilly and country heard in at least twenty years. The most remarkable quality on his debut, however, might be how well the mix of his often intensely literary lyrics, nuanced Americana sound, and emotional phrasing work to win over listeners. Come Ride with Me is a superbly produced affair with the boards manned by Ford and his collaborator and album engineer Dan Voli, but while it deserves mention for its merits, it merely provides the ideal sonic vehicle for Road to present his songs to an audience that’s, frankly, quite starved for these sort of songs. Road has peers, of course, but few working in the genre today are capable of bringing together such a powerful fusion of musical and lyrical quality.
“Your Return” sets the mood fast. Much of Come Ride with me devotes itself to casting the songs in a slightly foreboding mode, breezing by with a sense of impending disaster, or else are cast as slightly elegiac affairs colored by a sense of loss or distance. Road phrases things wonderfully on this opening song and his vocal adds much to the already fine lyric. “Watching Cars Go By” touches on that aforementioned feeling of loss. Road doesn’t necessarily look back on his youth as a time of heartache – but, viewed from the remove of years and the distance it creates between one time acquaintances and friends, the nostalgia for that time is palpable musically and vocally. The melodic virtues of “Drive” are so exceptional that it surely rates as one of the album’s finest moment further distinguished by one of Road’s best vocals. It has a much lighter touch than some of the other songs and represents a welcome shift in tone.
He confounds expectations some with “She Changed Her Mind”. Experienced listeners of the genre might expect a weepy classic country ballad, but instead, Ford strips away any dross and goes all in with a rockabilly attack that amps up the album’s intensity level. There’s a bit of a brash attitude coming out of “Down by the Sea” that will prove a pleasant surprise for many listeners and has a strong chorus that has to be one of the album’s best. Road handles the vocal demands without a hint of strain. “Tonight” might not be one of the album’s longest numbers, but it clearly acts as a sort of climax for the album without ever announcing itself. Road’s emphatic vocal shows his commitment off stronger than ever. The rousing performance on this song makes the relaxed pace and melodic joy in “Under a Beautiful Sky” all the more satisfying. Jeff Road and his audience alike have earned this ending. Jeff Road’s Come Ride with Me is one of the genre’s more memorable releases in the last decade and does so with unusual grace and beauty.
9 out of 10 stars.