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Album Review – Tylor and the Train Robbers – “Hum of the Road”

If you’re looking for an album that avoids all the well-worn grooves and eye-rolling tropes of country music, is instilled with insightful road-worn and real-life wisdom, yet is still enjoyable enough to not feel like you’re in the audience of a sermon, Hum of the Road by Tylor and the Train Robbers is sure to sit right with you.

Tylor and the Train Robbers are made up of favored sons and brothers from Idaho who’ve earned strong appreciation from folks in the upper mountain regions and Pacific Northwest over the last ten years or so. It’s the combination of coming from a perspective sequestered from the style trends of songwriting in Texas and Tennessee, while also taking advantage of nationally-recognized talent to pull it all together that makes Hum of the Road so tasty.

Produced by Cody Braun of Reckless Kelly fame at the Yellow Dog Studios in Wimberley, TX—famous for all those Mike and the Moonpies records (now Silverada)—Hum of the Road was engineered by Adam Odor, and mixed by Jonathan Tyler. A bunch of Texans may have put the spit polish on the album, but it’s the Train Robbers who are responsible for the music, and Tylor Ketchum who composed all the songs himself.

Ketchum has a soothsayer kind of way he constructs his songs, giving this music a distinct listening experience. This can also result in some rather obscure song themes that can be hard to follow, especially on first listen. But when Tylor really gets on a run, it can be rather spellbinding and evocative, especially when he utilizes circular lyricism that works back upon itself in interesting ways.

When the character in the song “Skittle Man” realizes just how much of a “mess” he must be making by judging the eyes of the man who just shot him in the chest, it’s a type of 3-dimensional songwriting you’re not used to hearing. Tylor Ketchum is uninterested in turning in cliché drinkin’ songs or tributes to ol’ Hank. He’s here to make you think.

“Workin’ Hands” is like a wake up call to those whose lives are passing them by, as is “Ton of Trails.” Life isn’t going to live itself, and your dreams aren’t going to seek you out. You have to take the initiative. “The Way We Learn” tries to explain that who we are is who we are, and sometimes that’s not our fault. Tylor doesn’t just want to entertain you. He wants to make you think.

Though the patient and attentive listener can find great rewards in the catalog of Tylor and the Train Robbers, they continue to ask a lot from their audience, and don’t offer a lot of easy on-ramps. Hum of the Road doesn’t really address this, but those who’ve fallen in love with this type of enriching listen from Tyler will find just what they’re looking for in this new album.

You’ll hear fellow musicians from across the United States talk favorably about Tylor Ketchum and his brothers Jason and Tommy Bushman who make up the nucleus of the Train Robbers band. Rider Soran plays pedal steel and dobro, and Johnny “Shoes” Pisano is on lead guitar. They’ve opened for just about everybody, while in the post-COVID era, they’ve ventured out more farther afield from Idaho, making the “Hum of the Road” something they’re intimately familiar with, and a band that attentive country music fans across the United States revere.

1 3/4 Guns Up (8/10)

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