Eric Brace & Last Train Home- Everything Will Be review


Everything Will Be

Eric Brace & Last Train Home Everything Will Be Red Beet Records

Eric Brace is one of the smoothest and most interesting vocalists populating Americana. While hardly a familiar name within the mainstream of roots music, those of us who have attuned our ears his direction recognize his appealing qualities.

For reference, Brace and his Last Train Home cohorts borrow a bit from John Hiatt in manner, tone, and phrasing, vocally and instrumentally. But that is just a starting place for the uninitiated: Eric Brace and Last Train Home have their own way of conducting business.

That they have never ‘broken through’ is unfortunate, but we all have our favourites who are unjustly ignored by the Americana masses. For every Jason Isbell and Allison Russell, there are dozens of bands like Last Train Home, well-loved but underappreciated. We know that fortune and a multitude of other elements interfere with recognition. Rather than lamenting these injustices, we need to appreciate that which is encountered, and spread the word to those who haven’t yet aligned to our understandings.

Brace is nothing if not flexible. Whether working with long-time collaborator Peter Cooper, or Thomm Jutz, Karl Straub, or his long-running band Last Train Home, Brace has built a catalogue of songs and performances that would keep a keen radio host—or acute listener—busy for hours and days.

I’ve been fortunate to have been with Brace for a good part of his musical journey, having fallen hard for his recordings with Cooper over the past fifteen years. It took me a bit longer to warm to Last Train Home, and here’s why: Me.

I was the problem.

See, I am rather…rigid. I like things the way I like them, and when a roots/Americana band doesn’t do things exactly the way I see fit, I tend to dismiss them and move on.

I made that mistake with Last Train Home. I was so enamoured with Brace and Cooper that I couldn’t find space in my heart for Last Train Home, a collective that doesn’t always play to the middle of what I (shortsightedly and mistakenly) believed ‘roots’ should be. Last Train Horn performed songs with instruments I deemed not ‘country’ enough- trumpet, come on! They performed songs in a manner that was a bit uptown to my ears of the time.

Again, my mistake. Because once I started to actually listen to their albums, I found beauty, precision, and depth equal to—but different—from the Brace-Cooper albums I had fallen so completely for over the years. Their previous Daytime Highs and Overnight Lows was masterful. This one? More of the same.

Everything Will Be, seven Brace originals and co-writes along with four covers, is outstanding. Recorded remotely because of the pandemic, the nine-named members of Long Train Home swapped instrumental and vocal digital files and have created one of 2022’s early wonderworks. Moving from a place of “Why bother?” (as in, Why bother making another album when we can’t play live?) to “Why not!” (as in, Why not make music together- we love doing so!) Everything Will Be gently reveals its collective treasures.

Listening to Brace sing of the power of “Language” is illuminating, and with his colleagues Chris Watling (saxophone), Kevin Cordt (trumpet), and Martin Lynds (bodrán) communicating with an instrumental language as textured as Brace’s and Laura Tsaggaris’ vocals…well, magic is revealed.

Brace takes little moments—an eternal oath, a youth practicing trumpet, a renewal of acquaintanceship, a realization—and builds them into narratives and poetic observations with wisdom. The title track rocks fairly hard, at least instrumentally where the band jams off their arses. Brace revisits a pair of his songs to present them in new circumstances. Both “If I Had A Nickel” and “In the Dark” benefit from this revisualization, and while the familiar renditions are splendid, these new imaginings are unexpectedly welcome, as is the ‘spot-a-lick’ instrumental, “East Nashville Highball.”

Of the covers, including songs from John Hartford and Johnny Mercer, a gentle highlight is the piano-driven (Kevin McKendree) “Lily of the Day,” a song from Jutz and Craig Market.  McGiunness Flint’s “When I’m Dead and Gone.” A song of its era, that is one with a bit of drunken bravado, Brace punches the lyrics, delivering the observation of “Don’t want nobody to mourn beside my grave” with some ancient Faces/Stewart gravity.

The guitar playing of Scott McKnight, Jared Bartlett, and Brace throughout the recording is consistently impressive, as are the contributions of Dave Van Allen (pedal steel and Dobro), Billy Williams (banjo, guitar ukulele, harmonica) and Jim Gray (bass). With so many principals, one would imagine that instruments and voices pile atop each other, but one would be mistaken. Ably produced by Bartlett and Brace, the recording is clean, clear, and uncluttered.

And that is how I like my roots music.

Key tracks: “In the Dark” “Language” “Just a Moment”

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