'Hey, Soul Sister' propels Train to the top 

The San Fran band is still rollin' in full gear

There might be something faintly elitist about pop-rock band Train. The California pop/rock trio recently launched the Train Wine Club, in which fans can sign up for a monthly wine subscription that gets them two bottles of West Coast wine delivered to their doorstep every month. That's pretty dainty for a veteran rock band.

But there's something fairly natural and unpretentious about Train's music and personality, too. Over the last 15 years, lead singer Pat Monahan and his San Francisco combo have exerted a cool confidence. With a sense of urban-chic, they looked like extras on Friends (or the slick hosts of a VH1 specialty show).

The Grammy-winning act appeared to be emotionally sensitive and romantically considerate — the kind of well-mannered musicians who wouldn't offend the parents or the kids. With a tight rhythm section behind Monahan's high-tone singing, they sounded like a well-seasoned bunch of studio cats with warm chops and a firm handle on songcraft.

Monahan formed Train with guitarists Rob Hotchkiss and Jim Stafford in San Francisco in 1994. They expanded into a quintet and gradually built a sizable audience in the Bay area. They signed with Columbia Records' side label Aware in 1998 and issued a critically acclaimed self-titled debut. They scored a Top 40 hit with "Meet Virginia" in '99. 2001's Drops of Jupiter became a multiplatinum success thanks to the chart-topping title track, a mid-tempo ballad that closely resembled the rhythm and melodies of '70s one-hit wonder Doby Gray's "Drift Away." My Private Nation went platinum with a successful single titled "Calling All Angels" in '03.

The mid-2000s quieted down for Train, as 2006's For Me, It's You barely made a splash. Monahan worked on his own material, releasing a solo album in 2007. With the ukulele-driven ballad "Hey, Soul Sister" peaking at number three on the Billboard charts, their latest studio album Save Me, San Francisco is their greatest commercial success to date.

The current lineup features Monahan, Stafford, drummer Scott Underwood, and a few touring guests. They make their Family Circle Stadium debut this week. Maybe they'll serve a few bottles of cabernet sauvignon or chardonnay with the hits.



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