The debut full length album from Jeff Road, Come Ride with Me, is ten songs of traditional country in a world where those virtues are increasingly at a premium. This Canadian native has a thorough and easy-going mastery of the genre’s fundamentals while still finding the stylistic room to incorporate rockabilly, folk, rock echoes, and even a dollop of the blues into his musical stew/ His clear and tastefully emotive singing has a commercial air while still imbuing each song with a credible genre-oriented sound. The songwriting has a template he follows much of the album, but the execution is so well done it never taxes listener’s patience. Perhaps the key factor in making the last statement true is that Road brings a lyrical excellence to this material that matches the high bar set bar the genre’s iconic acts without ever imitating them.
Atmosphere is an important part of what makes the bulk of Come Ride with Me work so well. “Your Return” is an outstanding example of how just a little added atmospherics transform Road’s material and underscore its inherent virtues. He writes impressively solid material. Everything on “Your Return” plays naturally and hangs together with the pleasing sense of inevitability we all crave from our musical experience. There is a lightly haunted air surrounding all of the songs and few of them embody it more than “Watching Cars Go By”. This haunted feeling isn’t ever mired in despair, but rather the sound of memory and elegy. The affection for these memories comes through clearly on every line. One of Come Ride with Me’s finest melodic numbers, “Drive”, has a bright airiness most songs lack and escapes the atmosphere dominating the earlier songs. Road demonstrates his facility for rockabilly with the song “She Changed Her Mind”. The songwriting turns on a popular traditional trope in country songwriting, the ironically titled and blackly comedic song of heartbreak, and Road’s sharp writing shows his command of the formula.
A slight change in instrumentation helps “Solitary Man” move with a folky bounce. Road excels at character studies every bit as much as narrative songs and this is, arguably, the finest example of the former on Come Ride with Me. Hints of a repressed rocker spirit peek out from behind the music of “Down by the Sea” and “Tonight”. The first of the two songs has a much punchier chorus while the second is a little leaner, but both rely on stronger flurries of guitar than listeners have heard thus far. Jeff Road ends Come Ride with Meon a much brighter note with “Under a Beautiful Sky”. There’s a great balance between music on the album coupled with a wide emotional range full of shade and substance. Road’s first release is a decidedly DIY affair, but he’s spared no expense and shows great acumen in presenting these ten songs in the best possible light. Come Ride with Me is a great success from first song to last.