In the wake of winning IBMA’s Emerging Artist Of The Year, the Boxcars’ second recording retains much the same division of labor as their first. Keith Garrett is still the principle songwriter and singer, contributing and singing four songs in the middle register. John Bowman still handles the songs that call for tenor, and Adam Steffey and Ronnie Stewart perform the same duty with growlier leads. The source of the material is about the same—seven from bandmembers, five from outside. As with the first, there is one instrumental, in this case, Steffey’s “That’s What She Said,” a fleet, reel-inflected tune with a nifty chord shift in the bridge.
Where this recording differs from the first is that it’s, overall, slower and not as varied in style. Most of the tracks hold to the mid-tempo between 90-110 beats-per-minute and hold to a more traditional sound. The first recording swung wider in tempo and ping-ponged between traditional, country, and contemporary styles. Here, only the swaying country of “I’m Over You,” the country of “Still Good At Crying Over You,” and the light, contemporary feel (particularly in the chorus) of “Don’t Fall In Love With A Girl Like That,” all written by Garrett, break free from a traditional-based sound.
That said, there is much to like here and much that exceeds the first CD. Those three Garrett songs in many ways go one better than any on the first, as does Steffey’s instrumental. Steffey also updates, with lightly contemporary touches, a public domain murder ballad, “Born And Raised In Covington,” and the results bear far more strength than could any contemporary psuedo-ballad. Stewart’s classic-sounding “Alone And Wondering Why” stands shoulder to shoulder beside the band’s vibrant cover of Earl Scruggs’ “I’ve Lost You,” while Bowman’s emotional reading of Sonya and Rebecca Isaacs’ gospel tune, “Prison,” brings this strong follow-up recording to a close. (Crossroads Music, P.O. Box 829, Arden NC 28704, www.theboxcars.com.)BW