Nine Mile Station – Open Highways
This LA-based Americana rock faction, despite setbacks due to that other band known as Covid, managed to cut some bright, optimistic & hopeful songs. The 2nd & 3rd songs are quite “wet” but refreshing. “Caught In the Rain,” & “Fall Into the Sea,” — lightning strikes of near-Springsteen-Mellencamp type energy. The opener “California,” is firmly in Bob Segar’s land. The band was founded in Joshua Tree, CA (2019) & named after an authentic long-lost Mojave Desert ghost town.
Musicians from the band have performed & recorded with well-known artists & didn’t come up empty on this 32-minute effort. The 8-songs of Open Highways (Drops May 23–Southside Records) were produced by Fernando Perdomo (lead guitar/keys/backing vocals) & Will Hawkins (lead vocals/electric guitar) who’s been compared to Springsteen, Jim Morrison & Nick Cave.
While I don’t think Hawkins is as bombastic as Bruce, as intense & unpredictable as Morrison, or as deeply growly as Nick Cave – he has a distinctive vocal that gives his voice more credence within the Americana genre than any of those singers.
Hawkins’s pedigree is far more based on a Richard Manuel (The Band), Bo Thayer & Bob Segar America. His songs fit that scenario, melodies have the well-cultivated stories of roads traveled, distinctive faces in bus stations & the hunched-over coffee drinker who has a story he’s never told, anyone. The dust in the attic beside the framed pictures of unknown relatives. Will’s finest vocal is “Breathe,” since that’s a wonderful storytelling voice. Almost at times early country music era Ray Charles.
My suggestion would be to focus more on subjects other artists ignore. The musicianship is there but like learning to play a guitar or piano the lyrics & music take skill. Many musicians think they have it, but they don’t. They play well & sing great, but they have nothing to say. Will Hawkins always has a tantalizing manner of expressing his material.
“Fall Into the Sea,” is minor-majestic in arrangement with a better Bruce voice than Bruce. But each time new songs are created they need to go from pastel to watercolors to oil. The canvass is already there & Hawkins has the ingenuity. Every tune’s performed exceptionally well. Some would benefit from signature brief solos. More violin, rollicking piano, a brief sax honk to accentuate words, a 12-string acoustic guitar duel with the electric, the drums regaling the bass guitar.
Something to bring a sudden smile to a listener’s face since they weren’t expecting it. The rock band Steppenwolf had a string of singles in the 60s that did this to great effect.
Nine Mile Station is a great listen — to visit. Recorded in CA it sports a full-color 4-panel CD package. Players – Brendan Vasquez (bass/bgv), Nick Moran (drums) with Lainey White (violin), Michael Russeck (keyboards), Marisol Koss, Cristina Vane & Dan Rothchild (backing vocals).
Band photo by Robert Staley. CD @ Bandcamp + https://www.ninemilestationmusic.com/