REVIEW: Lyman Ellerman’s “I Wish I Were a Train” Processes Jaunty Topics

Reviews

Lyman Ellerman’s second studio album I Wish I were A Train, is full of hard knocks and tempered sorrows. Released today on Woodshed Resistance Records with long-time collaborator Jason Morgan, Ellerman’s songs do the hard work of processing his relationship to grief, addiction, women, and greed amongst other jaunty topics you’re not supposed to talk about in polite company.

With influences that range from the brooding baritone of Waylon Jennings and Sturgill Simpson to the bright, classic-rock anthems of The Eagles, I Wish I Were A Train is an album that rewards one for listening straight on through.

Ellerman’s testaments to life are told with just enough detail as to feel universal in their humanity. With an honest and unpolished mirror Ellerman’s songs speak to the heart of what feeds negativity and sorrow, a theme that is doubled down on in songs like “The Addict”, co-written with Larry Brake— “I don’t know if I’m hiding, fighting, or lying anymore.”

Opening the album with the rumbling march of what might be considered a doomsday clock, “Bigger Plans” rides a high wind straight across an apocalyptic storm cloud of sound. Over a bass line that hits you like a shot to the guts, vibrant imagery of mightier forces warns of a comeuppance to those who are “shackled to their treasures” and it becomes clear early on that this album’s themes are written for us all.

In fact, all of Ellerman’s songs share the sobering magnitude of one who’s seen the end, but is still willing to stick around and see how it all plays out. As in the comfy chair of honesty that is sauced out in “Nobody Knows You (Like I Do),” featuring backing vocals by Jessica Dooley and co-written with Keesy Timmer. There is an intimacy and frankness to his songs that soothe the mind like a biting, hand-warmed scotch. And then, after a nap and a shower, we are elevated to earworms like the title track—co-written with Chuck Werner— with its rusty, hand-hewn hook and summery ambivalence.

Lyman Ellerman hosts his latest album like a gentrified fellow whose seen more than he’d care to speak about, but speak about it he does, with a calm romance that keeps you loving the villainous protagonist he’s made of himself.

The album drops today and you can listen to it in full and get your copy on Lyman Ellerman’s website.

 

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