The Tarlatans are a damn fine rock and roll band. If you’ve heard them called a “roots rock” band, forget it. Their debut six-song EP, Good Luck, shows that they are a rock and roll band rooted in six-string guitars, the crack of a drum, and big booming harmonies.
You’ve heard the style before. It’s familiar. The Rolling Stones were best when they kept themselves this true. Tom Petty, Johnny Cash, The Band, even Hootie and the Blowfish…… if these bands are in your CD collection, then you’re not too old to enjoy a fresh batch of good songs from the Tarlatans. If you’ve enjoyed more modern iterations of the sound like the Jayhawks, BoDeans, Wild Feathers, Ryan Adams, Lumineers, Dawes, or Current Swell, you owe it to yourself to get what I consider the best local CD of the year….so far.
Produced by Jay Clifford (Jump Little Children), the band sounds far more polished than four guys on their first studio effort. Clifford kept the band in that space where recording magic happens – where technical precision meets emotional expression.
The CD starts off with a country lap steel threading through a simple vocal and acoustic guitar arrangement, before giving way to drums and big electric guitars. Both Taylor McCleskey and Ryan Williams take turns at lead vocal duties, and come together in the end to turn an intimate song into a anthem. They went from Awendaw Green to the North Charleston Performing Arts Center in one track. Ok, I’m not saying that they are in the big time yet, but their sound is.
The follow up song, “Before I See Her Eyes”, is as solid as any Needtobreathe single.
Third track, the ballad, “Fancy Things”, could have been a Del Amitri hit. Lead vocals crack with just the right emotion, while the harmonies sparkle throughout. Again this is a familiar subject – does the object of his love want him or fancy things? Is the singer doubting himself? Whatever the answer, this is top shelf songwriting and performance.
“Been Dreaming” was a standout on their locally released demo from a couple years ago, but it gets a welcome refresher on this time around. With a driving rhythm akin to U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” the Tarlatans do what they do best on this CD: raising that simple format to a new level with sing along harmonies, a tasty guitar riff, and big production.
“Home Sounds Fine To Me,” is their current single getting local airplay, and features harmonica from G. Love. This is no criticism of G. Love, but the song is another fantastic, dual lead vocal, foot stompin, sing along that would be great without any guest appearance (as fine as it is).
Closing out the CD with the title track, a magnificent string section backs the lines “good luck, good luck with your life.” They say good luck comes to those who are prepared. The Tarlatans have done all they could to prepare, by creating an impressive debut. I can only hope luck and opportunities come their way.
The Tarlatans CD release will be Saturday August 16 at the Charleston Music Hall with Steven Fiore and Volcanoes In the Kitchen. $10 advanced and $13.50 day of show.
Image from thetarlatans.com