Marlow Drive releases explosive new album
I want to tell you about the band Marlow Drive. I want to tell you about their album, Lights Are Turning Red. Before I can do either of those things, I have to get something out of the way first. Chip Ables, guitarist and lead vocalist for Marlow Drive, is quite simply one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. That might seem like an odd way to start off the article, but having just spent the last 90 minutes or so chatting with him about bands, music, life, the universe and everything, it is the thought foremost in my mind. He’s good people.
Marlow Drive is a four-piece, featuring Ables on vocals, Jody Swygert on bass, Alex Condra on lead and Greg Rudder on drums. As the band’s fourth drummer, one wonders if Greg has seen “This Is Spinal Tap,” but if the fellow has any fears of spontaneously combusting, it doesn’t show in his playing, which is a perfect fit for the rest of the band.
The music? Southern rock, baby. Good, old-fashioned, heavy-hitting Southern rock (which means there’s a heavy dose of blues and boogie in the mix).
Here we go again with another, “I don’t want to compare this band to another band” moment. but the truth is the truth—and the truth in this case is that the first time I heard the vocals I would have sworn it was Gregg Allman. The sonic resemblance is uncanny. I am convinced it is unintentional; Ables just happens to sound that way. A fella could do worse than to have a set of pipes like Allman.
Ables’ voice is a formidable instrument, but it has found its match in Condra’s guitar. Heavy, hard, mean…it’s the kind of guitar that when you hear it makes you feel like the biggest, baddest guy in the bar wouldn’t stand a chance if he crossed you. This is preposterous, of course, and likely to get you killed, so don’t do it, but the guitar work is powerful and emotionally charged. While I have serious misgivings about Ted Nugent’s skill as a pundit, he is a legendary guitar slinger, and I definitely hear some Ted in Condra’s wailing axe.
Providing the rhythmic launch pad for Ables and Condra are Swygert’s thumping bass and Rudder’s explosive drumming. Rarely do I get to say this, but the bass and drums in this band do not exist somewhere in the background while the front men take the spotlight. In fact, I don’t know that I’d designate any of the guys a ‘front man’ necessarily.
The band’s sound is really more of an ensemble, where each player shines without overshadowing his band mates and that is a tricky thing. I suspect a great deal of their success in that respect is due to their chemistry and also, to some degree, to the excellent production of Brett Nolan, noted musician, recording engineer and belly dance enthusiast.
The album itself is a collection of some of the boys’ best work, including my personal favorite, “Dirty Shame,” a tune that is definitive proof that old-school rock and roll can hang with the nastiest stuff out there today. “Murfreesboro Rain” is another tune in that vein, a song that is to Southern rock what the Dodge Charger is to muscle cars.
The titular “Lights Are Turning Red” boasts guitar licks and a driving beat guaranteed to lead directly to pumping fists and flowing adrenaline. There is range here as well. “What’s Going On” is an out-and-out groove with shades of Pink Floyd in the instrumentation, while the love song of the album, “Hot or Cold,” evokes a kind of turmoil and anguish that is blues to the core.
The band just had a very successful gig at Rhythm & Brews with Jess Goggans, and is looking forward to a string of upcoming shows, including appearances at Brew & Cue on Dec. 20 and JJ’s Bohemia on Dec. 27. You can hear the album on Reverbnation (and you should), but to get the full effect of the serious musical voodoo these guys are playing, you need to see them live.
You know where and when.
Get to it.