The Road Runners showcase simplicity and grace together
It’s noon but the sky is gray, the window is streaked with rain and there is a chill in the late September air. It’s the kind of weather that isn’t to everyone’s taste, but I like it. I like that the line of demarcation between the seasons is so clear. We may have more warm, sunny days yet (I hope we do) but they will be warm, sunny autumn days from here on out. It was the perfect backdrop for sitting and listening to the Road Runners for the first time, at least the couple of tunes I have on hand.
The Road Runners are James Lowery and Tara Danielle. Occasionally it’s some other people too, but the duo of James and Tara has been the one unchanging element of the band and, for the moment, the sum total of it. James is a Chattanooga native who grew up watching his father play guitar, inspiring him to take up the instrument himself. He wrote his first original song at 15.
Tara grew up in Dawsonville, GA where she spent her childhood singing in school and church choirs and winning numerous local talent contests. The two met in 2013 while busking. Their musical connection was instant, and the Road Runners were formed soon after.
Although the Road Runners have a fairly healthy array of recorded tunes, I chose to focus on two in particular, feeling that these two showcase a great deal of what makes this duo work.
The first song, “A Short Journey,” is a philosophical work, a three-minute-and-forty-eight-second meditation on life that, as singer/songwriter tunes go, is pretty close to perfect. It is sparse, just two guitars and a voice, and yet the duo uses this simple configuration to maximum effect.
An acoustic guitar strums out interestingly voiced chords while a muted electric jumps in and out with finger-picked chords and dreamlike lead runs. Lowery’s voice is both powerful and vulnerable and the effect overall is moody and haunting.
There are hints of Mark Lanegan and Leo Cohen, but as much as anything it makes me think of how it would be if Roger Waters and David Gilmour were just two guys with guitars.
The second tune, “Jamie’s Song,” is Tara’s turn to showcase her golden throat, easily the equal of any of today’s pop stars. The song also explores the duo’s expansion into a band, with the addition of bass, drums and some absolutely angelic harmonies. They could work as a band, very well, but the duo’s chemistry is something that genuinely sets them apart from so many other acts.
I have to think that even with the addition of two, three, four or more other members it would still be “James, Tara and the band.”
If there’s a specific name for their style of music, I don’t know it, but I can think of plenty of examples of artists whose style is similar. Mary Gauthier and Catie Curtis (“Sugarcane”) come to mind: contemporary folk/Americana with just enough pop thrown in to get it on the radio.
Whatever label one might try to affix to them, one thing is certain: They are absolutely devoted to their craft. While they certainly enjoy playing larger venues, they are equally at home playing in front of gas stations and restaurants, frequently earning the disapproval of those sorts of people who, lacking any real success of their own, are quick to educate other people on “how things are done.”
Water off a duck’s back to this pair, who will do whatever it takes to get their music heard. Moments before a gig, Tara broke her pinky finger when a car trunk was unexpectedly slammed shut. The plucky songstress fashioned a makeshift splint out of matchsticks and tape and the show went on as scheduled.
The next opportunity to catch these up-and-comers live will be Oct.10 at Phibb’s Bar and Grill in Rock Springs, GA. They will also be appearing at Mayo’s here in Chattanooga in November and at World of Beer downtown in January.
More information about the band, their music and upcoming gigs can be found at theroadrunnersmusic.rocks as well as “roadrunnersmusic” on the Reverbnation website.