Going into recording the follow-up, Mechlem and original members Will Campbell (bass) and Greg Slone (drums) bolstered their membership, adding guitarist (and album co-producer) Steve Wethington on guitar and violinist Annette Christianson. While the mood and spirit of the debut is still intact on the resulting album, The Goodnight Trail, Mack West’s sophomore effort doesn’t exactly expand on the trademark elements (as one might expect with the physical growth from trio to quintet).
Instead, the core songwriting is stronger, coming across as more compact and accessible.
Mechlem has always been one of the city’s more underrated songwriters, and The Goodnight Trail shows him in peak form. Despite the refocus on song structure, the musicians still do a great job of imaginatively painting around Mechlem’s timeless poetics, sturdy melodies and low-register croon (often compared to Johnny Cash as a vocalist, on Trail Mechlem might remind you more of Matt Berninger of Cincy-born/Brooklyn-based Indie Rock stars The National) with flourish and flair.
The album is often lush (thanks, partly, to the magnificent violin parts) but usually low-key, which creates an almost hypnotic vibe. Occasionally, tracks bleed into one another indistinctly, creating some same-sameness that might lead impatient listeners to hit fast forward. But, overall, The Goodnight Trail is a gorgeous slice of sublime Indie Roots Rock that rewards repeated listens. Grade: B
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