“Hands of Time” by Ludlow Creek
Ludlow Creek has metamorphized from its beginnings playing covers as Southbound before they began authoring their own material. Southbound released a well-received album but, not long before entering the studio to cut their sophomore effort, the band’s five members decided to change their name. Ludlow Creek is a rather regional sounding name compared to the more open-ended Southbound and doesn’t quite conform to the band’s sound. It suggests a group of hat-clad hipsters turning out folky Americana.
Prepare to be surprised. There are ample rustic charms scattered over the course of Hands of Time’s eight songs, but Ludlow Creek has a surprising bluesy and rock bite. Opening with the one-two punch of “Instant Replay” and “Nine Mile Road” serves notice that they aren’t afraid of flexing their musical muscle. Melodies leap from that muscle as well. “Instant Replay”, in particular, generates much of its momentum on the back of a superb central guitar riff. There’s dazzling lead work in both tracks but “Nine Mile Road” especially sparks with fiery fretwork.
Jeffery Friend’s drums put an indelible mark on the title song. Friend does a killer job segueing between the song’s different sections. The drummer has the hardest physical labor on anyone in a band, but Ludlow Creek’s Friend proves he’s more than up to the task as the tempo and accompaniment changes never prompt him to lose the beat.
It’s smart without ever sounding pretentious. Ludlow Creek’s lyrics here and elsewhere are full of talented turns of phrase. They are, likewise, apt to catalog significant details with the storytelling eye of a novelist or short story writer as opposed to musicians alone. They strip their presentation down to dramatic essentials with the song “Now I Can Bleed”. The emotional stake, as the song title implies, are higher than ever before and the lean yet heated intensity running throughout the song comes supplied courtesy of Michelle Scarpelli’s organ playing.
“Picking Up the Pieces” is one of Hands of Time’s most solid songs. I felt satisfied with each album track from the first. The finesse of weaving Allen Seals and Dave Benson’s guitars, Friend’s drums, and the keyboard and bass contributions of the Scarpellis, Michelle and Tom respectively, is especially tasty here. “Freedom Blues” ends Ludlow Creek’s Hands of Time on an ambitious note. I expected the band to rein their final curtain in some, maybe choosing a slow sad song spellbinding listeners as they slip out the door, but they confound my expectations.
I want to say it’s a sprawling track but, clocking in less than six minutes, it isn’t. Ludlow Creek, however, is far from content following a single trajectory with this closer. “Freedom Blues” shifts through several guises without ever seeming like a handful of fragments uneasily married to manufacture a song. It is an impressive and cohesive final statement that closes the album in a conclusive way and opens the door to a boundless future. Let’s hope Ludlow Creek are busy writing and plotting their next move as I write.