In the Jukebox: Sol Driven Train 

A review of the veteran Charleston ensemble's new Watermelon disc

Sol Driven Train
Watermelon
(independent)

Charleston band Sol Driven Train's new EP Watermelon is like those Valentine's Day chocolate samplers: The five songs have no thematic or stylistic connection, but the diversity shows off the group's versatility. Each track represents a direction Sol Driven Train could easily go if they felt the need to narrow themselves to just the strawberry-cream-filled chocolate or that weird nougaty one.

Recorded and mixed by engineers Jeff Hodges and Joey Cox at Charleston Sound, the sound quality is phenomenal. The crisp tones and full feel of the production enhances the eclectic differences in the songs, allowing each one to be in its own element.

The title track is goofy — a fun summer song that, due to its PG nature, I could imagine being popular with the elementary school crowd. Main singer and songwriter Joel Timmons sings, "Watermelon/You're only here four months of the year/Then you disappear to the Southern Hemisphere," as the rest of the band backs him up with falsetto vocals and cool effects.

The second track, "Vampire," could not be more different. A weird, fast-paced, ska-style tale of strangers trudging through the snow-filled darkness of God knows where, finding lodging at a boardinghouse and wondering: "Are you evil, are you good/Do you want to drink my blood/May I inquire/Are you a vampire?" The horns own this strange song, with Russell Clarke's saxophone and Ward Buckheister's trombone bringing it home.

"Romp" is an electric bluegrass-style shuffle, with elements of piano rockabilly. Written and sung by bassist Rusty Cole, it's the strongest of the five songs, showcasing the band's excellent musicianship.

The fourth track is a blunt, punk-rock social commentary about our consumption of media, sex, caffeine, and just about everything else. With overdubs of radio voices promising "Half price! Half price!" the song "Consume" features an excellent long solo with intermingling horns and guitar before getting back to the punk style of the chorus.

"For Old Times' Sake," the closer, is the most traditional rock song of the set. A slow, easy rhythm with ever-present horns adding sweetness, it brings the EP back to earth, and the pretty melody leaves you with a smile.

With Watermelon, it's as if Sol Driven Train decided to find the five least cohesive songs and put them together in order to give the listener a sample of the full breadth of their sound. And, somehow, they pulled it off, with high style points. (soldriventrain.com

Sol Driven Train hosts "Sol Fest" at the Windjammer Fri. July 29 and Sat. July 30.

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