June 24, 2005
Old School Freight Train: Run (Acoustic Disc)
Old School Freight Train could be accused of misrepresentation in their choice of the band name. There is nothing “old school” about them, and the old-time evocation stirred by the image of freight trains is about as far from the sounds the group creates as pufferbellies are from the Mars Rover. OSFT is a modern string band of young guys who sound nothing like Charlie Poole or Ralph Stanley but are more in line with iconoclasts like Bela Fleck or the guy who signed them to his own Acoustic Disc label, David Grisman. Ten of the dozen tracks are originals—the two covers are by Randy Newman and Stevie Wonder--and all are accessible but uncompromising in their creativity, embracing newgrass techniques and conjuring a distinctive, appealing musical profile. Banjoist Ben Krakauer, fiddler Nate Leath, mandolinist Pete Frostic, bassist Darell Muller, and guitarist/lead singer Jesse Harper have the chops to dazzle, and they do, but they also manage to make their statements with taste and restraint. Grisman guests on one of the instrumentals, but this is a quintet of players who don’t need star power to get their points across.