Sleepy Driver’s new collaborative album, ‘Northeastern Chorus’, is a true celebration of music and friendship.
There is a unique sense of freedom that comes from making music for the pure joy of it. When the self-imposed structures all bands inevitably place upon themselves to guide their collective focus can exist free from any influence outside the simple act of “making music,” the results can be liberating. When things like career aspirations, genre classifications and the belief that music needs to be something more than melodic development are cast aside, a band, or more importantly, a group of friends, can enjoy the artform’s true rewards.
For the members of Sleepy Driver, music has always been a part time thing; something to explore and play with as they see fit. Over the band’s several albums they have, at times, deliberately challenged themselves and the alt-country label thrust upon them from the get go, choosing to channel inspiration and influence from all angles. In some ways, Sleepy Driver have reached the sort of nirvana few groups are lucky to achieve. The ball is always in their court.
Northeastern Chorus, the latest release from Sleepy Driver is not actually a Sleepy Driver album, although it is, sort of. The project brings together many of the band’s friends, collaborators and past live guests – a sort of wish list of New Brunswick music makers – resulting in an 11 track recording that, while still holding dear to the band’s familiar territory, provides yet another avenue for creation, collaboration and reinvention.
The project features songs by Sleep Driver’s Peter Hicks and John Heinstein, Sissy and the Hobos’ Juanita Bourque and Clinton Charlton, a member of Bonnett House, Jessica Rhaye and the Ramshackle Parade and all around ubiquitous Saint John musician. Together with a guest list that includes Shane and Jamie Guitar, Ross Beckett, Sylvia Reentovich, Erin Keith, Karl Gans and many more, this first “Sleepy Driver presents” album is an admirable undertaking, or to look at it another way, one of the strongest New Brunswick music collaborations in some time.
Hicks’ familiar, catchy songwriting is present on songs like Don’t Get Me Started and Come Around Lover and Heinstein’s Big Wheels proves a perfect fit for Hicks’ voice. The album is also a welcomed reintroduction to Juanita Bourque, whose powerful voice leads several tracks including Long Way Around, a song co-written with local legend Mike Bravener. Among the album’s many highlights, Charlton’s April to Montreal is not only a beautiful song in its own right, but when paired with Hicks’ voice and Dave Palmer’s dreamy pedal steel work, the song becomes a highpoint and the perfect closer to the album.
While not a Sleepy Driver album in the traditional sense, Northeastern Chorus is a great addition to the band’s catalogue, a wonderful celebration of musical friendships and a damn beautiful album.