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Published: 2003/09/28
by Glenn Alexander

self-titled – Old School Freight Train

Courthouse 0202

In any musical resurgence there lies the distinct possibility of confusing
gimmickry with authenticity. The social and spiritual aspects that helped
create an original music can easily be forgotten in the process of creating
something better suited for today's over-saturated, 15-minute shelf life.
With the current upwelling of bluegrass, Americana, and other roots music,
there lies basically two choices: pave a new trail using other influences as
well as the tools from the genre's past, or go the traditional route with an
ear firmly grounded in the music's history and attempt to stimulate people's
interest in the sounds of long-ago.

There have been acoustic musicians like
David Grisman, Bela Fleck, Sam Bush, and Tony Rice who went the former route
decades ago, with remarkably original results, thus creating even more music
for all these newcomers to draw from. Old School Freight Train has
gladly borrowed from the original innovators as well as those still with us
and have come up with something pretty close to being authentically
innovative, with splashes of originality and an abundance of borrowed

Within the first few tracks, you can tell OFST has an edge on most of their
competition. "Horizon Line" is a beautiful opening, incorporating very
accomplished vocal harmonies, and pleasing chord arrangements. "Beginner's
Mind" is an interesting jazz, funk, and bossanova hybrid which steps along
at a mesmerizing pace, allowing all of the band members to let loose, and
fill in the cracks with jazz-influenced colors and Latin-flavored solos.
"Armageddon" is not only lyrically timely (people with hatred and ignorance
abusing their power) but proves to be the most original and inspiring song
on the album, incorporating the blues into their sound with captivating
results. The song is sung with such a loose, fervent inflection, it conveys
its spiritual and social weight within moments.

From listening to the stomping bluegrass numbers like "Beaver Creek
Shakedown" and "Rock Valley Prison," OSFT prove to not only have remarkable
musicianship, but an ability to latch on to old sounds as easily as new
ones. They don't try to over-stimulate you with their musical prowess or
use gimmickry to pull you in. Although they prove to be adept at traversing
various styles such as swing, jazz, bluegrass, Latin, and blues, they have
some progressing to do before they can find a sound to call their own.
However, few bands can navigate this much ground with such ease, and not
lose you in the process; making them rather unique, after all.

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