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Review: Milk Drive, Road From Home

Milk Drive
Road From Home
[CDBY (2011)]

Out of the ashes of several Austin bands—most notably South Austin Jug Band—rises Milk Drive, a quartet organized around virtuosos Brian Beken (fiddle), Dennis Ludiker (mandolin), and Noah Jeffries (guitar). But don’t think of Milk Drive as being a logical extension of the South Austin Jug Band. Nor is their studio debut, Road from Home, a cleaner, tighter version of its predecessor disc, the pickin’ party extravaganza Milk Drive Live ’09.

Its sonic signature is in its breathtaking instrumentals (“Changa Chang,” “Fiji”) loaded with tempo shifts, tender emotive passages, and intricate movement changes where splendid solos are swapped freely among members. Still, one can’t help but wonder if Milk Drive is evolving into something beyond being this generation’s Strength in Numbers. Unlike the all-instrumental Milk Drive Live ’09, there are several well-chosen vocal selections ranging from the macabre (“Dry Creek Inn”) to the philosophical (“Smokeblowers”) to poignant topics that feel mystical (“Back”). The last third of the album is where things are at their best and the feeling of creativity is most fluid, especially on “Round The Bend” that’s built upon an underlying hypnotic drone.

—Dan Willging (Denver, CO)

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