~Traveling Broke and Out of Gas~
Multi-Genre Influence - Festival Music

Bastard Americana
Label - Artist’s own
Release Date: September 1st, 2018

Writing credits taken from album tracklist, additional credits verified with artist.
All songs written by Cody Hall

From artist’s Facebook page:

Rachael Yanni- Vocals, Washboard, Ukulele, Percussion
Cody Hall - Guitar, Percussion, Vocals, Songwriter
Davide Marzoli - Six String Bass, 7/8 Stand Up Bass, Vocals
Maxx Heathcote - Lead Guitar, Banjo

Traveling Broke and Out of Gas
Bastard Americana

Deep breath…

It's been a while. Six months ago an unexpected yet necessary “life break” occurred. A forced hiatus is however, still a break. A break here and there is good for the creative soul.  Remember the oxygen mask. I encourage artists to consider, that sometimes the best creatives come from a complete lack of muse...for a time.

But don’t let me tell you how to create. - #youdoyou

Life of course, then became super busy - as it's prone to do.  So much so that I forgot to do the one thing that keeps me relatively sane.

Slow down...and listen to some music…

Thanks D.L. - ;)

As I slowed down the
Ricker Rocker engine and returned to the ultimate source of peace - music, I found myself in connection with an unusually timely and apt soundtrack. Having been a while since I delved into a full listening experience, I searched for something new and fresh to reboot my stagnant muse.

I often find during these times that a soundtrack becomes necessary. Music to serve as the backdrop to your life. I’m not talking about your own theme music.  We all wish we had that. I’m talking about something to drive you, to make you think; something that fits your moment, your surroundings...your time, or occupies you at minimum.

Sometimes it doesn't matter what you think you need in the way of a perfect sound that will underscore the movie that is your life.  Sometimes what you actually need suddenly and simply just... arrives.

Along comes
Traveling Broke and Out of Gas.  I confess, that in all of our travels we kept missing this band for one reason or another.  I am genuinely sorry for that. Had I caught them earlier, I might have known like everyone else who’s heard them, it is not only a unique sound; but a soulful journey that must be felt more than heard.

To generically stamp this album as Folk or Americana immediately seemed lazy to me. Throughout the album, I was challenged to find the deepest yet apt description of what I felt. I am rarely pushed into such detailed thought pattern by a first time listen.

Yet I was.

This was exciting for me, as we had recently made a big change in our lives that kept me from my music for quite a while.  I needed something with which to relate. Something that transported me.

We live in the city now. Sirens at night, rude drivers, impatient horns through the day, walking everywhere we go…smells like urine sometimes... it’s the city. A few months of this and one starts to need more than the usual audio escape.

Such it was with the release of
Bastard Americana, Traveling Broke (AND Out of Gas)’s latest.

Of course they didn't release it according to my schedule, but the walk to work everyday with the soundtrack of Bastard in my ears, seemed to be just for me.

With this their fourth recorded release, Traveling Broke creates a portal, to visually step through at my leisure, and irrespective to my surroundings.  Anytime the harsh and insulting city landscape turned to me for attention, Traveling was there.

Not only was it with me down every street, it took me down every musical road as well, ripe with story and a continuous flow of imagery throughout the album.

Each track suggests a new musical canvas for the roads that I, the listener, traveled. An alley became a dusty trail, an intersection - a crossroads, and a city park became a flowering field.

Fitting then that Bastard Americana became our latest (and well overdue) album review.

Track 1

Perhaps it's the album's cover that visually places you in the middle of the prairie.  Perhaps It's the tempo set at the beginning of the work that causes you to look to the horizon for an incoming wagon train.  The lyrics help to do both. There’s an immediate story. The track adorns an edgy, but softly hued dusty trail of music; with a softer path for you to tread upon.

Influence is vast and apparent from the onset.  Both Hall and Yanni tease the listener with their range and capability.  The music as well, challenges you to put away the temptation to place it inside a cookie-cutter genre. Its genre influence is widespread.  Something the listener is sure of as early as the start of the second track.

Traveling Broke doesn’t fit quite so easily into brand, not this group.  This collection of backgrounds and style forge into something else quite different, and with a depth I haven't heard in some time.

Favorite lyric: ...had to skip on some meals, to save on some bills…

Sing it girl...

Favorite vocal hook in this track: When Yanni finishes the sustained, soft-howl note just near the end tag; it's succinct yet comforting.

It made me want to practice and learn it...so good - :)

Gospel, Blues, Bluegrass, Country, Indie...so many possibilities; all of which would be premature...without a listen.

Listen on, and you’ll see what I mean.

Track 2
Northern Lights
Featuring Alex Mason and Greg Simpson

LOVE the way this track starts.  We were just circling the wagons and ...whuuuuu what’s this sound??? There’s a snap transition from a “gospelly” type blues, and a smidge of a dusty busking - complete with horns!

Alley cat, bayou vibe. A jazz sound that works as if by design with the rest of the album.  A fusion of both, this track has a bigger and more expectant sound. It fills the empty space in as you try to place it; onto both genre and visual canvas.

Lyrical content begins to flourish here as well, structure, style.  All taking on new forms. We all would like to imagine that artists write in the order that’s tracked...not true.  But the progression is there nonetheless, whether by design or otherwise.

Favorite lyric hook in this track is at: 1:37 - go....listen…oh mama - ;)

The subtle horns totally work here.  The construct is big band and jazz, with a folk application from vocals and guitar in the background.  Not a backing track mind you, not a simple guitar presence in the channel, no. I’m saying that the guitar literally sounds as if it’s in the background of the story - expressly not in the foreground for a reason.

Nods to the mixing - well done!

I especially like the way Hall allows the extra rasp/gravel sound in the more expressive parts of the chorus.  He purposely removes the smooth, cleaner vocals in order to properly emote the track’s vibe.

Track 3

Teasingly short, Traveling Broke allows us to hear the end chorus that finishes a later track.  The church organ influence here is juxtaposed by the message that follows.

A reminder. There are roots here that cannot be ignored.... They bring context and promise. Again...it’s an overture.  The music is better for it.

Track 4
Bastard Americana
Featuring Liz Sloan, Jared McGovern, and Greg Simpson


As I write, with this track in the background, I realize that this is the about the 50th time I’ve heard it.  It still gives me the feels every time Hall opens with that bass drop in his voice - complete with Yanni in a short choral melody that I am absolutely in love with.

What begins as a sorrowful lament...the sound and lyric preparing us for a story, triumphs with a promise of hope and restoration.

And no kids...it’s not gospel - :)

There is so much to walk away with from the album’s title track.  You literally get it all. Name your genre. It’s a palpable leaning into a high-rising chug of celebratory story telling.

Then... Cody Hall.

He pulls the whole thing together with some of the most intuitive life lyrics I’ve heard written into a song in a while.  Combine invoked memories and stories that we can all relate to (I know exactly where my bootlegger’s house is), the vocal prose becomes an invitation to meld lyric with mood. You wonder how long the trail you’re on will last, and the story you're in will be going. Heavy but not smothering, with a clear intent.

Hall with an intentional growl that lets the listener know this is all keenly felt and he wants us to understand the story.  Yanni again with a melody hook. She sustains it in a way that makes you want to step up and peer in.

Nod again to the mixing!

Then...hot damn, we’re at a barn dance!

I LOVE this assuming medley.  It’s composure, combined with an unusual orchestration, Bastard requires you to make time to process your hard times in any situation and move forward. Forward...to the next lesson in life, as told by Cody Hall's penned recount of a life that was, and still is.

Forward yet again into an explosive and rounding uplift. A tease in a small way, that this opus is over.  But it’s not. In fact, it’s only a 3rd of the way through. Oh, the promises!

Hall again, let’s us know his emotional range.  He could have mailed this whole middle of the track in, but he didn’t.  Not only that, he raises the lyrical bar as well as his vocal range at just the perfect moments.

Then...there is a soft release of an open string or two, and we find ourselves in the middle of a bridge...but not in the song itself; it’s a bridge in the medley.

Tempo increase and you’re beginning to understand the story is mid-transition, and you were part of it without even knowing.  This is not easily done. Certainly not to me, as a listener.

I normally hear you coming… - ;)

There’s a wonderful showcase around the 11:00 minute mark, of all the stringed instruments.  It serves, however intently or not, to be the piece that ties together the opus.  Well done guys...well done.

I’m a bastard.  Now we get the full Cody Hall.  He implores you as if to say “listen to me, listen to me I’m trying to tell you something about life and love and the story that is all of us!  This is me, this is you! Just listen and tell me if you can’t relate to the tales of plight in the same way I do!”

At least...that’s what I hear...and feel...

Then there’s a hint of a rail split in the path, that leads to a new story, that fits into the overall narrative. Fuller sound returns from focal sound, more inclusive here with strings, the slow rising, bridge-like build. Cody allows a free roam of his vocals here again. It sets the scene as well as it wraps up an expectation.

I’m a Bastard…

Return to a velvety comfort amidst a dusty trail. One more belt of emotion and Cody and co. find their way back home; a lyrical comment to the same proposal. But not before we get some groovy guitar that reminds us it’s not all strings and vocal hooks and harmonics.

It’s not enough to simply say that Rachael Yanni has a beautiful voice. The harmony and sustained holds on several of those tracks is so musically comforting, I find myself weeping at moments.  It’s one thing to feel the music, to feel the vocals.  You can simply tell when feeling erupts from within. But another to know the feeling is shared at the moment.

Cody Hall ends the track with an almost spoken, train-chug sound of a lyrical wrap up.  There’s an unexpected yet apt change in the sound of vocals as it transitions to a group choral sound.  Then Cody again, this time with a slightly Irish pub wail, all topped off again by the well-mixed guitar.

“...and these dreams I feel…” - good stuff.

You hear the tempo tease that lets us know we’re near the end; yet so do Yanni’s vocals.  She literally explains that you’ve made it home.

Track 5
Featuring Greg Simpson and Claire Tchoula

Ahh… who says a guitar run dropped in beforehand can't captivate. in the words of a drinking buddy of mine… they're a gosh darn liar.

But when it drops in key again...now there’s a promise that needs kept.  The listener demands it at that point. The promise is kept. This simply structured, yet intricate melodic tune is aesthetically pleasing; and is rife with hooks.

Then there is horn, and there is bass, and there is saxophone, there is rise in my heart beat!!!  Truth in feeling. And just when you get comfortable with the narrative, you're forced to consider your road map again. A smoooooth breakdown at about the 4:00 mark, with a long but beautiful bridge, and you have new musical direction.

So smooth...

This may be my favorite track on the album.  The ability of Traveling Broke to compose is beautiful. These aren’t hastily and haphazardly recorded pieces just thrown together in the hopes that something will stick, no!  Someone, or a group of someones in this band has listened to a LOT of music.  There’s simply no better order to the arrangements.  There is no better order to the tracks. This is a well molded composite of truth and music.

Who’s gonna bring home the biscuits boy; who’s gonna turn them screws...?”

Now that’s just good writing…

Cody even drops some verse on us here as well!  I love the over arcing horn. And again, they could have mailed it in here in its entirety and the album would have still been a great album.  Aspiring for more, Traveling opens up a new listening landscape for me. I don't’ ask much of brilliantly composed music except to simply be brilliant.  I imagine them in the studio with copious moments of self-discovery. Brilliance is the byproduct of that.

Track 6
Traveling Broke

An unexpected, yet welcome return to basic melody.  Nice end to a full album listening experience. Would love to hear it on vinyl.  I love Hall's unapologetic imagery. The feeling is deep here in melody. Some if it off - timed just enough, that a detectable pattern emerges.  A hint of a previous track’s melody peeks in (which totally works here), I love the way they do that.

Finally...there is a welcome departure.  It's almost forceful but it’s welcome.  Key change then we’re back with the strings, all the best for the listener here in this last minute of the track...and indeed the album.

The album in its entirety was a sampling of memory, journey, and adventure; pulled tightly into a collective representation of all that Traveling Broke and Out of Gas has been, has grown to be, and are destined for beyond.

Having said that, it makes me want to visit their earlier catalog in its entirety.

The stories here, and in every other track on the album, resonate.  I spoke with a close friend of mine regarding this very thing, and he agrees that they do so with all of us in some way. Even if this particular sound isn't your thing...chances are you feel the influence nonetheless.

All music affects and influences all other music. But this is more than that. There's history, compassion, intrigue.  It's not just a well orchestrated and harmoniously pleasing album… It's a great fucking story.  You get to know the deeper parts of who songwriter Cody Hall is.. and you're a much better person for it.

The hard work is evident throughout with no ambiguity. So many chances to take shortcuts, yet none were taken.

Coming home has a sound.  And Traveling Broke has found it.

Thank you all.  Sincerely, and with much love and respect,

Slow down… and listen to some music... peace.


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