By Barry Gilbert
St. Louis Post-Dispatch


April 10, 2005

Last Train Home
"Bound Away"
Blue Buffalo Records

For anybody who ever challenged a music writer to shut up and try to make some music, here's Eric Brace.

The former nightlife columnist for and now freelance contributor to the Washington Post fronts a band full time called Last Train Home. The D.C.-based band plays country, rock and blues; it plays it sweet, jazzy and edgy; and why it's not a huge noise in alt-country and roots-music circles is a mystery.

"Bound Away" is the fourth full-length CD by LTH, a group of 10 players that expands or contracts as needed. Brace is the singer and chief writer, supported by a rhythm section of bassist Jim Carson Gray and drummer Martin Lynds. On "Bound Away," D.C. guitarist Jeff Lang lends his considerable talents, as do other Washington-based musicians.

From the first bars of the rocking "Marlene," by Kevin Johnson of the band the Linemen, "Bound Away" bristles with great tunes and lyrics dressed up with wailing pedal steel guitar and washes of organ and keyboards.

Occasionally, horns provide other surprising colors. Kevin Cordt's lone trumpet gives a late-night, smoky vibe to "Dogs on the East Side," about Brace's new home in East Nashville, Tenn., and a horn section propels a breakneck nod to Johnny Cash and Buck Owens on "Train of Love."

Cash appears again on "Hendersonville," a Brace tune inspired by visiting the graves of Cash and his wife, June Carter Cash, in Hendersonville, Tenn.: "Lay me down upon the hill/with my wildwood blossoms still/side-by-side beneath the turf/in a place where nothing hurts."

Other standout tracks include "Flipping Quarters," a terrific breakup song about a guy at a pay phone, and "Matchbook Message" ("written with a barman's pen . . . said I want to see you again"). Both songs feature fine organ solos, the former by Scott McKnight and the latter by Ericson Holt.

"Gravediggers Blues" rides on Lang's edgy and scratchy Resophonic guitar in a tune dedicated to D.C. gravedigger and bluesman John Jackson: "We all end up six feet down,/I'll tell you how I know,/see the shovel in my hands/. . . I know how it ends."

LTH also chooses some good songs to cover, including the traditional "Rye Whiskey," Paul Kelly's "To Her Door," Karl Straub's "They Dance Real Close There" and a fine reworking of Bob Dylan's "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You" (from "Nashville Skyline").

If you love roots music, you'll catch the Last Train Home.