Album Reviews


City Lights

Artist:     Driftwood

Album:     City Lights

Label:     Self Released

Release Date:     11/04/2016


There’s something about those hills and woods in upstate New York that often breed engaging music. Certainly The Band and others from Woodstock come to mind. Think also of the Felice Brothers from the Catskills. Driftwood hails from an area a bit further west– the blue collar town of Binghamton. Nonetheless, their music emanates many of the same rural qualities. The fiddles, banjos and acoustic guitar usually mean bluegrass, but this band makes that sound much more interesting as they approach it with a punk-rock attitude that embraces country and rock ‘n’ roll. Their harmonies bring rushes of excitement to these songs, and it’s clear that Driftwood plays with exultant joy that is undeniably rooted in their aggressive touring schedule of 150 shows per year. In fact, as you listen, it seems that the studio is a bit confining for this band– even though this is their fourth studio album. They just continually want to bust out. It’s no surprise that many describe their live shows as electrifying and unrelenting.

Driftwood’s music is immediately enticing. It’s as if it just reaches out with a big shout – “Pay attention.” Yet the lyrics and even the subject matter are not very noticeable. It’s the exuberance in the playing and singing that draws the listener in. Yet, if you’re one that wants to sample a few tracks, try these:  the title track, “Lemonade,” “Too Afraid,” “Skin and Bone” and “The Waves” (you might also find a video for this one).

“We started off playing rock in high school. Then we studied jazz and classical music in college. Then we dove headfirst into folk and bluegrass. At some point I guess we kind of met in the middle,” says guitarist/songwriter Dan Forsyth. “We recognized early on that one of our strongest points was songwriting. The greatest songs transcend genre and time and this was one of the motivating ideas behind the band at the start,” adds banjo player/songwriter Joe Kollar. The third lead vocalist and violinist Claire Byrne, chimes in, “I give so much of myself when I play because I deem it necessary in order to do the music justice.”

Driftwood formed in 2005, spending their first four years playing just about anywhere they could. Since the release of their debut record, “Rally Day,” in 2009, the band has spent most of the last five years on the road. With club and festival appearances alongside of artists such as Béla Fleck, Old Crow Medicine Show, Rusted Root, Del McCoury, Brett Dennen, the Wailers, Railroad Earth, Robert Randolph and others is how Driftwood established their live show reputation. They will be touring the East behind this album. Get out from underneath those blankets and let Driftwood carry you away.

-Jim Hynes

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