Lost Dogs was formed when the leading members of four pioneering yet obscure alternative bands got together to rediscover the roots of rock and roll, resulting in 1992's Scenic Routes, a hodgepodge of musical styles running from country to gospel to blues to rock to alternative. Three more albums brings us to the release of last years Gift Horse and the passing away of member Gene Eugene, leaving many to wonder if he would be replaced, who would replace him, who could replace him, or if The Lost Dogs would even continue. Legally binding record contracts being what they are, The Lost Dogs have continued, sans replacement.
Being this is their first album as a three-piece (plus the usual ragtag of rhythm section players), it's somewhat fitting that album is quite reminiscent of the Merle Haggard-Johnny Cash feel of the very first Lost Dogs album. While Gift Horse unabashedly country with twang, this one runs the stylistic gamut, although not as much as their 1996 release Green Room Serenade. One of the joys in having four, er, three strong song writers in a group is each member has their turn at bat but as in last years release, Terry Taylor wrote nearly every song, resulting in a more uniform tone but one that is not as nearly as adventurous or as fun as it could be. Still, they take turns on vocals and guitars, including the copious vocal harmonies. Even for one such as myself who abhors the twangy end of country music, there are lots of well-written gems that are sure to be ignored by the general public. Mike Roe croons the effective ballad of a title track in a gentle tenor voice and later does his best Gene Eugene impersonation on the touching "In The Distance". "The Legged Dog" is a rollicking, humorous song about a dog (band?) that has "a few miles left." "Dust on the Bible" is appropriately of the gospel genre while "Certain Love" is an upbeat alternative country song spouting lyrics such as "I had a dream but it fell apart/ A trusted friend who broke my heart." True to form, the songs are sweet and sad, describing losses, loneliness and regret but always with a flicker of hope. While not my favorite Lost Dogs album, there is a definite charm and earnestness to these "sung from the heart" songs, a joy in being alive despite life's hardships and pains that makes this album a keeper.
This review first appeared in WhatzUp, October 2001.