[11 April 2007]
The Lonesome Travelers are an acoustic side-project for John Thomas Griffith and Paul Sanchez, members of New Orleans-based alternative-roots outfit Cowboy Mouth. Joined here on their eponymous debut by Mouth’s John Herbert on harmonica and Rob Savoy on bass, these guys take the musical heritage of Gram Parsons and run with it. From the first salvo of Flying Burrito Brothers-style country-rock on the raucous opener “Free Rambling Cowboy” to the bar-room stomper “Ain’t It a Shame”, reminiscent of the Rolling Stones’ late-‘60s output, and on to the hidden closing track, “The Brakeman”, with its Byrds-flavoured country-folk—the spirit of the man who ended his days at Joshua Tree looms large. Nevertheless, this is certainly not a tribute album to what Parsons liked to call “Cosmic American Music”. “In a Couple of Hours” deviates from the country-rock template, adding a touch of crooning jazz to the proceedings, while gospel harmonies are introduced on “Bed of Roses”. And with the help of Susan Cowsill providing tight backing vocals on a handful of songs, not to mention her beautiful, melancholy duet with Sanchez on “Land of Broken Hearts”, plus some excellent pedal steel by Dwight Breland, the end result is a truly rewarding listen. This album may not break any new ground, but it does show that sometimes it’s just plain fun lookin’ back.