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Meta Four

Havalina Rail Co: self-titled

Listen on grooveshark

Love this band. Love love love this band. (Of course, I wrote our article about them, so what do you expect?) This isn't the earliest music I have by them (I'll be getting to that later), but this is their first normal release. Haha, "Normal."

The Roster: Havalina's lineup has seen many changes over the years. Because I can, I will be keeping track of them as we cover the band's history. Here's their lineup on this album.
  • Matt Wignall: guitar, banjo, primary vocalist
  • Jeff Suri: drums, percussion, lead and backing vocals
  • Orlando Greenhill: electric and upright bass, backing vocals
  • Daniel Brooker: accordion, piano
  • Grady McFerrin: trumpet, washboard
  • Mark Cole: percussion

The first track is kind of a folk-swing dealy. Funny story: This album came out in '94 or thereabouts, and this track was promoted as the album's hit single. The 90's Swing Revival was in full swing at the time, so a lot of people heard this song and assumed that the peoples Havalina were trying to ride that gravy train. So the swing haters stayed the heck away from the band, while the swing fans were disappointed to discover that there was a lot less swing than advertised on this album—only one or two tracks you could actually dance to. And thus, any chance of having more than a cult fanbase was preemptively killed by bad marketing.

Did I say "funny story"? I meant "really irritating thing that happened".

Doesn't make the song any less great. Love that accordion.

"One Day" sounds like it has a bit of a reggae rhythm. Also: lyrics so indecipherable that Havalina themselves lost the lyrics and couldn't remember the words. Seriously, the album booklet just has a note asking if any fans can figure out what Jeff Suri is singing.

"Proportion Thing" features guest vocals by Julie Musali.

"Things". Now there's a vague title if ever I heard one. One of these days I need to make a playlist of vaguely titled songs. What I can think of off the top of my head: This song, "Something" by the Beatles, "Nothing at All" by Third Day, "Nothing" by the W's... There has to be more. At least a song named "Anything".

This album is basically a jazz sandwich on vaguely-Americana bread. Right here ("Things", "Grass Roots", "Cruis'n", "2/4", Green Skies") we're in the first slice of bread.

None of these guys are particularly talented singers, but they're so earnest that I don't really care. It sounds endearing.

The lunchmeat of the sandwich starts at "If You Leave" and continued through "French Theme" and "New Song".

What's odd about "New Song" is the bridge. Matt Wignall stops to introduce all the members of the band, and he mentions Nathan Jensen, the fellow playing saxophone. According to the liner notes, Nathan was a guest musician Latino All-Star, not a band member. BUT Nathan plays on more tracks of this album than any other Latino All-Stars, and he was an official band member on the two albums that followed this one. Hmm...

Enough about that. Drum solo!

And then a song about crying into your alcohol.

Actually, come to think of it, this section of the album, after the jazz interlude, is less Americana and more of a swing-Americana mix, so the album is less of a sandwich and more of a weird thing with one slice of bread, and then some meat, and then a slice of meatloaf or some other kind of bread-meat hybrid. ...What have I done? That sandwich is a culinary abomination unto the Lord.

Also, Gospel music influences.

I don't remember who sang those deep backing vocals on "Sha La La". They should have had him sing in more songs.

The cover version of Woody Guthrie's "Take You Ridin' in My Car" is tacked onto the end of "Train Song" for no clearly discernible reason.

The album closer, "Moon River", features Julie Musali again. According to the fellow who ran the Too Good to Last music blog Drop7, Matt Wignall and Julie Musali were dating at this time. They broke up not long after this, and Julie married Jason Martin sometime after.

Why the strings at the end? Why not?

I love this band. This is totally Havalina's best album.

If you only listen to one track, listen to: "Sha La La". No wait, "New Song". No, "Ragtime". No, arrgh...

For part 2 of the Havalina story, click here.