Monday, November 15, 2010

CD Review: Trona - Red River

I discovered this Boston-based quartet at The Double Door in Chicago back in 1998. I had come for catchy tunes of local power pop masters Thrift Store Halo, who were on the same bill, but Trona impressed me as well. Enough to urge my editor at the Illinois Entertainer to hunt down a copy of the band’s newest CD, Red River, which resulted in the following review.

Looking it over, I’m surprised there’s no mention of the best track, the rock-a-billy noir tale, “Sail Into The Storm,” which kicks off with a loping bass and the intriguing lines, “There’s been a murder/A killing of souls/There is a spiral/Down we go.” At this point, I don’t remember if I initially overlooked the song or if my comments were edited out. Sadly, both Trona and Thrift Store Halo are no longer with us, although various members continue to perform in other groups.

Mary Ellen Leahy and Christian Dyas, both of whom play guitar and sing lead in the Boston-based Trona, are an adventurous songwriting duo who ignite their offbeat lyrics with spirited harmony vocals. Backed by the solid rhythm section of Nick White on drums and Pete Sutton on bass, Leahy and Dyas explore a variety of musical styles on Red River.

The dynamic male/female vocal interplay and energetic guitars will surely remind listeners of L.A. punk pioneers X, and “I Can’t Wait” establishes the band’s penchant for strong melodies. The more subtle “Time Life” recalls the exquisite pop of Let’s Active, and guest musician Rich Gilbert adds a mournful steel pedal to the ballad “Know Too Well.” Trona even succeeds with “Projecting,” a creepy bit of voyeurism set to a slow, engaging melody.

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