First there was Bob Manor, then Bob Manor & the Getaway Drivers and then the Getaway Drivers. The changes are indicative of the trajectory this group of musicians has taken. Now consisting of seven members, the Getaway Drivers seem fully realized; a tight, complete unit that is reflected in the music. Their style is often labeled as alt-country or Americana but that doesn’t fully describe them. Manor’s songwriting, acoustic guitar and vocals are still the band’s centerpiece but they have an uncanny knack for taking uncomplicated song structures and adorning them with just the right amount of embellishments. Their 2009 six-song EP, The Truth is Where It’s Always Been, was one of the best of the year and if I could sum it up in one word it would be “beautiful.”
All the elements that make them special are reflected in “Undone.” Here Sheila Shigley, who also sings with the excellent vocal group Navan, takes the lead vocal and her voice is clear as a bell. Steve Pingry’s cello and Shigley’s violin capture the plaintive demeanor of the song perfectly. Manor’s softly played acoustic guitar reinforces the delicacy. Dan Kennedy’s electric guitar harmonics are precise. Kennedy is one guitarist who always seems to play just the right part, never overpowering; always knowing his place.
The final tune, “Salt Blue and Bone” is similar, this one with a sea-shanty feel that, again, coincides with the lyrical content. The violin and cello in the coda is simply gorgeous. Shigley again has the lead but the vocal harmonies are what elevate the song to another level entirely. They achieve this mesmerizing vocal harmony on “Beale St.” as well, only in reverse as Manor takes the lead. The addition of Barb Chusid on keyboards was another significant event in completing the Getaway Drivers’ sound and on “Beale St.” you can sense how important her addition is.
The leadoff track, “Honey” will stick in your head like glue. A radio-friendly pop/rock song, this one features a supremely tasty, double-tracked guitar solo by Kennedy. As a bonus track, “Honey” gets an extended mix, which adds about an extra minute of instrumental music to the track and brings the total length of the EP to thirty minutes. But you’ll wish there was more.
The Getaway Drivers are also true DIY-ers as they recorded and mixed this effort themselves, took all the photos and designed the sleeve. The production is excellent and they wisely brought in Tom Blain to do the mastering. “Hotel Flowers” may sum up the band’s ethos best. Here Manor delivers a fine vocal performance, underscoring the band’s sincerity: “I see fairy tales and lies in your hotel flowers / I’ll be happy in disguise, killing off the hours / What I need your money cannot buy / Keep your hotel flowers.” Madison is fortunate it gets to keep the Getaway Drivers.