CD Review of Gold Dust Trail by Warm in the Wake

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Gold Dust Trail
starstarstarstarhalf star Label: Livewire Recordings
Released: 2007
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“Looking at your watch a third time / Waiting in the station for the bus…”

Man, the late ‘80s wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting without R.E.M. Unfortunately, “These Days” turned into ‘Shiny Happy People,” Michael Stipe started trying to save Uganda from itself and, well, eventually nothing in Georgia was worth listening to anymore. Almost 20 years later, enter Warm in the Wake. Yes, I said Warm in the Wake. Don’t let possibly the worst band name since Porno for Pyros cloud your judgment of a truly fresh and pioneering initiative like the new seven-song EP Gold Dust Trail. (In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention this will be the first of two otherwise unrelated references to Perry Farrell.)

The Atlanta-based four-piece delivers less than 25 minutes of jangling, oft twangy acoustic guitars, pedal steel, keyboards and some of the dreamiest vocals this side of Chris Isaak. Actually, Chris Isaak isn’t a fair comparison, but neither is Neil Young (one of the many comparisons the band’s press kit uses). No doubt these guys have spent plenty of time listening to Wilco. Such multi-instrumental layering had to come from somewhere, and “Good King,” a blistering psychedelic jam with a really cool, Beck-ish vocal, would’ve fit in perfectly on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

Remaining in the psychedelic groove, “What You Seek” employs a slow-burning guitar to build a Jane’s Addiction-like feel. I’ve got to believe these guys wouldn’t have any problem drawing seven songs out to fill a 90-minute concert slot, since many of the Gold Dust tracks noticeably incorporate elements of Crazy Horse; in the end, though, it’s the pop-rich tunes that make this debut so damned hard to put down. “Tame Thoughts” and “Hearts vs. Heads” owe a great debt to the Shins without being blatant rip-offs, due at least in part to the fact that the Shins have never displayed the ability to unabashedly jam the way Warm in the Wake does. (Darn it, I had hoped to get through the rest of the review without having to repeat that dreadful name!)

“Hearts vs. Heads” is a killer cut, with an opening riff that salutes fellow Georgians the Allman Brothers before galloping blissfully along to an absolutely perfect pop beat. There isn’t a throwaway track in the bunch, in fact – less difficult to achieve when you’re only offering up seven to choose from, but still, to subtract points for quantity (or creativity of band name) would be to miss out on the greater good of such an impressive collection. Kings of Leon went the EP route a few years back, and were ultimately able to back it up with not one but two signature full-length releases. Big shoes to fill, indeed, but WITW seem up to the challenge.

~Red Rocker