Reviews

Tylor & The Train Robbers’ Best of the Worst Kind


By Brian Rock

Tylor & The Train Robbers barrel full steam ahead on their sophomore release, Best of the Worst Kind. With the musical influences of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Marty Stuart in the coal car, Tylor and company are fueled by the great story telling tradition of authentic Country music.

Acoustic guitar chords open the lead track, “Lost & Lonely Miles,” as Tylor sings about life on the road. Describing passed exit signs and hot coffee growing colder by the mile, Tylor declares he’s “been trying to do what I want for a while now, since I was a young kid. I’ll keep doing what I want while I can with these lost and lonely miles.” With simple and direct language like, “The sky is blue and dirt is brown. At least that’s the way that we all know it until our world gets turned upside down,” Tylor asserts his right to make his own decisions, even if they turn his world upside down.

In describing this album, lead singer Tylor Ketchum says, “I feel like the life of an 1800’s train robber can easily be compared to the life of a traveling musician.” Aside from the actual “robbing,” both lives are similar in that they’re constantly in motion, always seeking a new horizon. And Tylor sings about that restless spirit with a voice that’s part Josh Ritter and part Corb Lund, as his band plays like a well-oiled machine moving each story steadily down the line.

“Before It’s Too Late” is another acoustic call to get out there and explore life while you can. “Pave Your Way” adds elements of steel guitar to another ode to personal freedom. Blues harmonica punctuates the same theme on “Hide Your Goat,” as we’re told to “bridge the gap from good to great. Throw me the keys, open the gate.” And in case you still haven’t gotten the message, in “Few And Far Between,” Tylor sings “If we jump off this high dive, it could be a mess. But we’ll come out cleaner on the other side.” Again, for Tylor and company, tomorrow is always better than today, there is always better than here, and moving is always better than staying still.

Tylor’s musician/train robber metaphor reaches its climax in the brilliant, “The Ballad of Black Jack Ketchum.” The opening chords play like a classic Western film score as Tylor sings, “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.” For the next six minutes Tylor and his gang paint a cinematic portrait of the life and death of real-life outlaw Black Jack Ketchum. Told from a first-person point of view, the tale is vivid and visceral. With little hint of remorse, Ketchum sings about his crimes and his descent into bloodlust all the way up until his capture, when he “was hanged like the best of the worst kind.” If the tale sounds intensely personal, it may just be because singer Tyler Ketchum is, in fact, a distant relative of Black Jack Ketchum. That may explain the wanderlust in Tylor’s soul, and it may also explain how this album came to be released on April 28th, the very day Black Jack Ketchum was hung for his crimes 118 years ago.

Whatever the explanations behind it, “Best of the Worst Kind” is simply the best of the best kind of Americana music.

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Brian Rock

Brian Rock

Brian was raised gypsy style, moving every other year until well after college. As friendships proved to be temporary, Brian found a constant companion in music, wearing the grooves off Beatles and Dylan albums before moving on to Lyle Lovett and Dwight Yokam. Living so often in flux, he has come to value music and lyrics of lasting quality. Not moved by trends or fashion, he is drawn to timeless lyrics and soulful rhythms. Although now settled down, Brian still expresses his gypsy spirit through his writing. He has co-written songs with musician friends he’s met along the way, including several contributions to the 2012 ICMA Album of the Year, Family Album. Brian also writes children’s books and poems, including the Children’s Book Council featured title, The Deductive Detective.
Brian Rock

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