As a musician if you sing other people’s songs, which you are permitted to do, you are called a cover band, but as a writer if you copy someone else’s writing and try to pass it off as your own its called plagiarism. For the musician however performing in cover bands becomes an excellent way to cut one’s teeth as it were in the music world. It teaches one not only how play music and construct a melody but also how to put your own spin on someone else’s previously released material: to tweak it so to speak to sound more like what you sound like.
Adam Drudge, lead singer-guitarist for the Richmond Virginia blues-rock outfit Atom East began playing in cover bands as well as bands that played original tunes, though after a time he felt that these bands were not speaking the same language as the language he wanted to speak. So he set out to begin his own band in the summer of 2016 along with fellow musicians Shawn Drudge, Jimmy Crenshaw, Noel Burton and Tim Wade who fleshed out the original songs which appear on Atom East debut Gone Goodbye.
The record opens with the folksy-blues rock twang of the uplifting “Bluebird.” Next the record delves into alt country vibe with the self-reflexive breakup ballad “This Way.” Though trivial in its themes it’s true to the genre of bluesy folk rock and the musician ship is right on as are Drudge’s heartfelt vocals which I’d liken to the sleekness of James Taylor’s albeit with a hint of southern twang. However I found Drudge making up for these slight oversights of love song balladry later on the Paul Simonesque “All the Same” when he takes a broader view on sadness.
Atom East proves that they can shapeshift into similar sounding genres and slip easily into ‘70s southern funk rock on “Blind Man” where a psychedelic whirling organ, a steely guitar solo, and Drudge’s vocal shift to high-pitched howl make all the difference. This psychedelic mixture bleeds into the dirgy “Pirates” which seems more than mildly influenced by the Doors.
If it didn’t sound like too much of an oxymoron to call Gone Goodbye a collection of original ‘60s and ‘70s rock influenced covers than I certainly would call it that because that’s in fact what it sounds like.
The hints of these influences are not subtle, but then The Black Keys built an entire career on ripping off an ancient genre and pretending they’d just discovered it. Atom East may not be reinventing the wheel, but they are keeping it turning and that old wheel still sounds pretty damn good.
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