Ludlow Creek began creative life in 2013 as Southbound, a cover band covering a little bit of everything with a guitar in it, and toured extensively throughout the region from their Dayton, Ohio headquarters. This crack ensemble of musicians had little to no difficulty establishing themselves as one of the area’s premier live units. They wanted more, however.
Their decision a few years ago to forego covers in favor of original material might have signaled the band’s death knell. Ludlow Creek changed their name to reflect that change as well, a smart move because it cleared the decks for the musicians to essentially start over. There is no shackling them to Southbound’s past, a past that as a cover band was never really their own anyway, and they are instead free to once again reshape their destiny with the benefit of their long connection with each other.
The new album What Way is Forward?’s “Finding Our Way Back” is an outstanding album opener. It’s virtually impossible, in my opinion, for anyone to come away from this song unimpressed with the collective voice they manifest during this track. It’s a band working together without a single lapse and achieving an uniformity of mood and sound that eludes many lesser bands. “Road to Nowhere” is one of the album’s songs underling their unique take on time-tested musical approaches. The song’s bass playing, piano, and overall arrangement explore the musical limits of the song’s subject, desperation of the heart, without ever dragging listeners down.
“Stoney Lonesome Road” comes near the album’s midway point and has an overall demeanor of stock-taking that the band’s target audience will relate with. Some listeners may hear the song for the first time and think it sounds sort of stiff, a little too formal, but most listeners will latch onto the feel of an elegy for a life gone by without difficulty. The low-key jazzy vibe emerging during the second half of “Pandemanian Rhapsody (Livin’ to Do)” is one of the highlights of a song that’s one part Ludlow Creek, another part Ludlow Creek masquerading as Steely Dan, another part Ludlow Creek as country vocal legends Alabama. They sustain this unbroken confluence throughout the song, it’s thought-out at a level few others on the album are, and the evocative vocal harmonies are again powerful.
‘“Last Call” kicks out the jams Ludlow Creek style while holding their signature elements close. It is a fair observation that many of the album’s songs are stylized, but it doesn’t hold any water hearing a song such as this. “Last Call” is as unambiguous as this band gets and it’s well worth the listener’s time. There’s a lot of great moody guitar and keyboard work heard through the track “Never Knew the Man” and the decidedly bluesy tone taken here will likely be welcomed by most listeners. It’s certainly a promising live track, like so many others. Let’s hope Ludlow Creek gets the chance to play these songs far and wide as Which Way is Forward? is a step above and ahead of anything they’ve done so far.