“All Of These Years” by Steve Thomas & The Time Machine
There’s nothing quite like the rustic warmth that comes from the strings of a banjo, guitar, violin and fiddle harmonizing, and in Steve Thomas & The Time Machine’s All Of These Years, that very warmth is made the focal point of most every song. You don’t have to listen to tracks like “Lucky Man,” the title cut, “The Moon Over Georgia” or “Rocky Road Blues” to appreciate why bluegrass is one of the most beloved genres in the country music lexicon, and their string play might be the biggest reason why. It’s the most important cornerstone of any given performance on the LP, but not the only feature here worth getting excited about.
I definitely pick up on a strong country vibe in “My Heart Is Always Headed Back To You,” “Since You Came Around,” “The Rat Race” and “Down In The Wildwood,” but it’s coupled with just as much of a bluegrass influence in the structure of the music itself. Overall, I think it would be silly to argue against Steve Thomas & The Time Machine’s having one of the more diverse sonic profiles in the game right now, as they manage to cover more aesthetical angles in this debut than most anthology discs would.
The lyrics throughout this album are stinging with emotionality, but they wouldn’t be tangible to us in songs like “I Wonder Where You Are Tonight” and “Daddy’s Twin I-beam” were they not conveyed by the sensuous voice of Mr. Steve Thomas. Thomas’ approach to the verses in these two songs could be one of the more intriguing I’ve had the pleasure of coming across in 2020, and not because of his unique drawl alone. He’s patient with his lyrics, allowing them to blossom much as he does the harmony forged between his own vocal and the backing band behind him.
I really love the bass element in “My Heart Is Always Headed Back To You” and the title track in All Of These Years, and from where I sit, I think it’s a fine tool in reminding listeners that sonic indulgence can be an exceptionally good thing sometimes. By cushioning the lead vocal with an acrylic bassline in both of these songs, it’s difficult to turn our focus away from the energy the band is creating as a singular tour de force. They’re playing off of each other here brilliantly, and definitely sounding like a group that has recorded more than one album together.
To say that pleasing both country and bluegrass fans simultaneously in 2020 is no easy feat would probably be too grand an understatement for a critic like myself to make. In all actuality, serving these two audiences successfully is one of the hardest challenges an artist can take on right now, but nevertheless, Steve Thomas & The Time Machine give it everything they’ve got in All Of These Years to surprisingly strong results. They’re hitting the ground running like no other greenhorn group I’ve listened to in the month of May, and I do believe their spirit is going to get them quite far in this business over time.