If you’re into the storytelling of days past, from names like Marty Robbins or Johnny Cash, combined with good musicianship, then you’ll want to pay attention to Tylor and the Train Robbers newest album, Best of the Worst Kind, set to release on April 26th. This is the band’s second studio album; their first, Gravel, was released in 2017. Based out of Idaho, this four piece band is made up of Tylor Ketchum on lead vocals and guitar, Jason Bushman, his brother, who also happens to be the bassist for the group, Johnny Pisano, his future-father-in-law on lead guitar, and Flip Perkins on drums.
The cover art and title of the album comes from the track, “The Ballad of Black Jack Ketchum,” which is a nod to Tylor’s ancestor. Black Jack Ketchum, otherwise known as Thomas Edward Ketchum, was a cowboy turned outlaw in the late 1800’s. Finally caught and then hung in Clayton, New Mexico for his transgressions, the album release commemorates his date of death on April 26, 1901. This 12 track LP is chock full of good songwriting, thoughtful lyrics and music from four talented friends. You won’t find snap tracks or songs about back roads and rednecks on Best of the Worst Kind.
The album starts off strong with “Lost & Lonely Miles”, a song with a driving drum beat, about the miles spent on the highway with metaphors aplenty about life. However, it’s the fourth track on the album, “Storyteller,” that got me from my very first listen. I don’t know about you, but I had two grandfathers that loved to tell stories in their own unique way. Often, they were the only ones who still knew the stories and now that they’re gone, nobody will ever tell that story in the same way again. This same experience is what Tylor wrote the song, “Storyteller” about. What I love most about the song is the little details Tylor adds about his Papa, a man who wore worn out flannels, who always had sage advice and who loved a “marathon of Marshall Dillon on Gunsmoke.” I’ve never met the man, but it sure feels like I know all about him just from this song.
“The Ballad of the Black Jack Ketchum” is one of the stars of the album. This is the ultimate storytelling song, chronicling pieces of Black Jack’s life intertwined with some details of Tylor’s own. The first line, “My Daddy always said you’re only as good as who you’re hanging with…so I was hanging with the best of the worst kind” foreshadows the rest of the song. The ballad follows Black Jack from his early days of robbing trains until his death. It’s full of imagery and the hook, “You can be in hell by breakfast or go to Heaven at supper time” with a changing second stanza every time is a fun little detail to pay attention to. It’s this song in particular that reminds me of classic country artists like Jimmy Dean, Marty Robbins or even Johnny Cash that told an entire story within a song. This is also the first song from the album that has a music video, as the band filmed it while on tour last year and its set at the grave of Black Jack Ketchum in Clayton, New Mexico.
There are other definite gems in the album. The play on words in the song, “Pave Your Way” with references to eggs in many different forms is cute, but also impressive that Tylor and co-writer, Johnny Pisano found a way to cleverly write them in without making the song corny. Jennifer Pisano, who provides backup vocals and duet vocals on the tracks, “Good at Bad News” and “Few and Far Between” is an amazing addition to both songs. I honestly hope she appears more on the next album, because I really love the combination of both her and Tylor’s voice on those two tracks.
I’ve listened to this album many times and I’m still enjoying it on my daily commute. I’m also still noticing little details that I missed in previous listens and that’s always a sign of a great album, in my opinion. I think this is a solid second album for Tylor & the Train Robbers and although I enjoyed their first album, Gravel, I think this is by far the best of the two. If you’re looking for more than bro country, then you’ll want to pick this up. It’s a solid album and I guarantee you’re going to have some new favorite songs once you give the album a listen.
Tylor & the Train Robbers are currently on tour and their tour dates can be found here: https://www.tylorandthetrainrobbers.com/