The shuffling boogie and Southern-fried licks in the opening title track “Together and Alone” are an indicator that there’s plenty of good old-fashioned American, down-home rock in the new album from Bad Keys of the Mountain. But it’s not long before it becomes apparent how deep the influences of this West Virginia trio get, as Beatlesque melodies wind their way into the song. “I am you, and you are me / All in all is all we’ll be forever,” vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter David McGuire sings. “Laughing as we pass the time / ‘til we can be together and alone.”
True to the album’s title, Together and Alone was recorded in quarantine during the summer of 2020. The band, which also feature bassist Joey Lafferty and drummer Joey Reese, holed up in a studio in their hometown of Charleston, West Virginia. “As the Covid pandemic hit early in the year and brought all things music to a halt, we decided to put all of our creative energies into making a record that we feel is both timeless and of the times, and that both looks inward and outward,” says McGuire in the album’s press materials. “Capturing the sounds of rock ‘n’ roll ranging from the 1960s to the indie wave of the early 2000s, this record is the best example yet of who we are as a collection of musicians.”
It certainly is a diverse collection of songs. In addition to the melodic blues-rock of the title track, there’s the gorgeous country twang of “Aurora”, which sounds like it was swiped from a lost Flying Burrito Brothers session, complete with exquisite harmonies and pedal steel notes. The ruminating, mid-tempo “Something to Say” finds the missing link between the late Elliot Smith’s downbeat stylings and the Americana influences of early Wilco. Bad Keys of the Mountain’s sound spans decades, and they put it all out on this album without ever seeming like they’re spreading themselves too thin.
For all the singer-songwriter vibes on Together and Alone, there’s also no shortage of heavy riffs. “Never Get Enough” is a mini-epic reminiscent of Neil Young’s woolly, twin-guitar Crazy Horse efforts, but it’s nicely tempered with gentler moments where the guitars gently play off each other (before more intense jamming eventually takes over). For a band of three, Bad Keys of the Mountain display plenty of musical diversity. That’s particularly apparent when a song like “Never Get Enough” is followed by the low-key “Holding On”, which is anchored by quietly driving acoustic guitar strumming and McGuire’s passionate vocals, always keeping their deep sense of melody intact.
Together and Alone ends in a down-home fashion as if the band and listeners are gathered around a campfire – “Help Me Hand It Over” is an acoustic-based singalong complete with handclaps and primitive, thumping percussion. “Help me hand it over / Before we slip away,” McGuire sings. “Help me hand it to someone else / Who can lead the way.” Bad Keys of the Mountain may have created Together and Alone in the cozy, bucolic confines of West Virginia, but the influences spread across this deeply enjoyable album show a multifaceted band with something for everyone.