Gettin' Somewhere

Red Radio Flyer

Mother West Records, 2000

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/19/2000

It seems like there's a lot of alternative-country bands hitting the market these days. I can't put my finger on when this trend started, but the earliest example I can think of is The Bottle Rockets, a group who showed me just how entertaining such a marriage of styles could be. Maybe it was The Jayhawks who got the ball rolling; this comes to me as I sit here, freezing through another threatening winter day in Chicago.

From New York (where they get our snowstorms sooner or later) comes Red Radio Flyer, whose debut effort Gettin' Somewhere shows that this foursome has paid attention to their predecessors, but who have yet to find their own niche and songwriting watermark. While the performances on this disc are by no means bad, they have an air of what could have been.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Lead vocalist/guitarist Janardana Ryan sounds a bit like Chris Issak, almost as if he's ready to go into a falsetto wail at the push of a button. But seeing that the trigger is almost never pulled, it starts to get on the listener's nerves a bit. The rest of the group - guitarist/vocalist Paul Carbonaro, bassist/vocalist Mike Jones and drummer Tommy Allen (who also produced the album) - show they're skilled at their instruments, but they don't seem to have the creative fire underneath them, ready to kick their performances into overdrive.

Oh, I don't want people to think that Red Radio Flyer doesn't care about their music, nor do I want you to assume that Gettin' Somewhere is completely without merit. Tracks like "San Antonio (Gettin' Somewhere)", "Leave Right Now" and "James Henry" all demonstrate the potential that this group most definitely has, and what can be accomplished when it's harnassed.

Yet there are many instances where that power just seems to slip away from the band - and I'm at a loss to explain where things might have gone wrong. Tracks like "Banker's Hands," "Don't Ask Me To Explain," "Fading Away" and "I Got A Way" all suggest at the possibility of greatness, but always seems to fall short.

The only explanation I can give is that this is still a young band who are discovering themselves through the processes of songwriting, recording and touring. I've said this before, and I know I'll say it again: maybe the only thing they need is some time together on the road to pull together the loose strings.

Gettin' Somewhere is by no means a bad album, and it has more than its share of songs that are sure to please the palate of fans of groups like The Jayhawks. But Red Radio Flyer isn't quite at that level of songwriting achievement yet. Maybe when they reach it, that creative fire will burn bright, and that next album will be unstoppable. For now, though, this will do, even if it teases with what could have been.

Rating: B-

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© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Mother West Records, and is used for informational purposes only.