Funny, the people I meet sometimes. I crossed paths with Todd Adelman in a most unmusical way: a business meeting. But the gods decreed that I should find out about his music, and now I’m no less than stoked to report on his latest album.
Todd lives and runs The Mountain House studio up in Nederland. You might know Nederland from the storied Caribou Ranch studio that brought many a musical icon to this tiny town. These days, Nederland is still home to musicians a’plenty, and the legendary Pioneer Inn is as good as it gets for a pint, a band, and some chin-wagging.
“Highways and Lowways” is officially my summer jam. Music lovers in Colorado tend to go pretty nuts for the blues this time of year, and I can hear these tunes bouncing off the mountains at every festival from Telluride to Trinidad. Anchored by 14 original songs by Todd, the album was recorded at The Mountain House by a bevy of A-list players including Andy Hess (Black Crowes), Diego Voglino (Marshall Crenshaw), Doug Pettibone (Lucinda Williams), Kelvin Holly (Little Richard) and Pete Rubens (The Old Nationals). Chad Hailey (JJ Cale, Neil Young) and Brandon Bell (Alison Krauss, Darrell Scott) engineered and mixed it to tape.
I could stop right there, and you’d be scrambling to pull this album up online.
These melodies range from 12 bar blues to rock and country with folk sprinkles. I don’t know that I’d call this an Alt-country album. To me, the collective tone of these songs lacks a certain smugness (and I’m glad) that often comes with that label. One man’s opinion. Todd’s a one-man band on his own, playing guitar, piano, harmonica and of course singing, but wow the band kicks ass.
“Save Your Tears (For When I Say Goodbye)” is a jangly piano-driven ballad with bang-on performances on electric guitar and pedal steel. Todd turns some great phrases in this lyrical kiss-off, too.
My favorite track is “Ghost Train,” a straight-ahead song of lament lifted by a subtle horn section and delicate backing vocals set perfectly in the mix. Who among us isn’t haunted sometimes? A song like this grabs the heart and says what you perhaps cannot.
The lead single, “Cold Mississippi Blues,” is the one that’ll get you on your feet. It can hang with anything Drivin’ n Cryin’ is throwing down and summons just a hint of classic Skynyrd. I’m a sucker for songs with place names, too, so I can imagine sweatin’ out this love-gone-bad way down in the Delta.
Front to back, this album bends every note into submission on the way to becoming the sound of Colorado. There are nuanced surprises waiting; it’s a near-to-complete work when heard as a rhythm n’ blues record.
Todd Adelman and The Country Mile, his current band, have a number of gigs booked a little later in the summer. It would be well worth your time to seek them out and hear the live interpretations of these killer tunes. It’s summer – time to rock n’ roll.