Sol Driven Train delivers sweet summertime tunes 

Watermelon is nonstop sunshine

The last two years have been a nonstop journey for local rock band Sol Driven Train. The sextet has toured numerous times, released three albums, issued a concert DVD, and collaborated with a variety of musicians.

This summer, they're ready to hit the road behind a well-polished, locally recorded EP with a delectably fruity theme.

Singer/guitarist Joel Timmons swung by the City Paper office last week with a preview copy of the band's new EP Watermelon. The band recorded the songs at Charleston Sound in March with Jeff Hodges handling the production.

"A lot of love went into that disc," says Hodges. "The band is so fantastic and tight live that I wanted to capture their live energy. We recorded the drums, bass, horns, guitars, and vocals all at the same time. Most of Joel's lead vocals are his actual scratch tracks from the isolation booth. The band is so well-rehearsed that it just went down like soft butter."

Timmons, sax player Russell Clarke, guitarist/trombonist Ward Buckheister, bassist Rusty Cole, and drummer Wes Powers worked on some of the preproduction with Mark Bryan (of Hootie and the Blowfish) at Bryan's studio in Awendaw.

"On the previous album, we worked at different studios here and in Asheville, but with this project, we recorded for three weeks straight and knocked out 15 songs," says Timmons. "We partnered with Jeff as the producer, and we trusted his ideas and judgment. He's fantastic with subtle effects, room sounds, and mixes. The facilities are impeccable."

The five-song disc officially hits the street on Mon. July 4. The band hosts a two-night CD release party at the Windjammer under the name "Sol Fest" on Fri. July 29 and Sat. July 30. Local combo Fowler’s Mustache shares the stage on Friday. Saturday’s roster is much bigger: Asheville’s Josh Phillips Folk Festival and Columbia-based rockers Josh Roberts and the Hinges are on the bill. A slew of local acts are set to perform, too, including Shovels and Rope, the South Carolina Broadcasters, Danielle Howle, Firework Show, the V-Tones, and others.

"We started planning this two-night event last summer, even before we started doing demos for this recent studio session," says Timmons. "We tried to get a bunch of regional and local bands to join in. It'll be a huge weekend."

Watermelon's title track is a funky, mid-tempo ode to Timmon's favorite fruit — "and a wink to the sensual nature of summertime," as he puts it. Fans may be surprised by some of the Latin-tinged, country-based, glam-rock, and vaudevillian stylings scattered among the rest of the songs.

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