“Give me a song to sing/Harder than it is to bring/Back all the years I’ve wasted for so long.”
With an opening line fraught with desire and regret, Lost Immigrants launches the listener on a musical journey with their new album, Pasaporte.
The lead-off track, “Song to Sing,” quickly showcases the band at its finest: thoughtful lines, memorable hooks, tight two-stepping rhythms and playful instrumentation between electric guitar and fiddle. Redemption eventually turns to “no apologies” in the album’s second track, “Rolling Stone,” a story of a nomadic guitar player who never looks back. The songs are a 1-2 punch for the listener and a glimpse of what’s to come: sweet, toe-tapping country tunes mixed with balls-out rockers.
The band makes no apologies at how bi-polar their sophomore studio release may seem. On the record’s third track, “Abilene,” lead singer James Dunning even questions why the woman he’s infatuated with wants to “rock with a country band” – spotlighting the music’s back-and-forth sway into two genres. The semi-autobiographical tale has roots in the band’s 2007 Armed Forces Entertainment tour in Japan and Korea. Dunning, the group’s principal songwriter, allows the experience of meeting U.S. military overseas to shape the tale of soldiers in a not-too-distant war between the U.S. and China in the cinematic “Rose of Tokyo.”
The album takes a grittier, bluesier, and, at times, darker turn with the highly suggestive “Genevieve” and the lonesome highway midnight drive tune “AM Radio.” Lead guitarist Sean Isbell offers haunting, soulful licks over the pounding crunch of electric guitars and a pulsating rhythm section. Sandwiched between the two songs is a classic country number, “Goodbye Seoul,” a tale of desperation and misguided lust inspired by the band’s overseas tour.
A cover of Slaid Cleaves’ “Below” finds a home on the album as the Immigrants offer their own roots rock take on the obscure folk song. The sonic atmosphere of the song – with swampy guitars and a laid-back bass groove – matches Dunning’s tortured vocals as the band retells the story of a town washed away by progress.
The album’s starkest point comes with “Red Leather Dress” – a narrative on a longing love, a high noon duel and life along the U.S.-Mexico border 100 years ago. With classical guitars and accordion (provided by the Tejas Brothers’ Dave Perez), the listener is swept away to “the old country” where visions of senoritas in red dresses and borderland bars dance along to a jealous end.
The ubiquitous “gotta get out of this town” track, “Leaving Laredo,” finds the band in top form and staking a claim in the middle of the Texas country landscape. With a staccato bass line, pounding drums and a pinch of punk-rock attitude, the song implores the listener to move beyond whatever’s holding them back and “let the whole world sing.”
The album’s final track, “Rollin’ On,” puts the final period on a succinct statement of where the album’s been and where the band will continue to go. Penned solely by Isbell, the tune suggests that while things don’t go the way they hoped, they’ll keep moving down the road. The narrator tells his newfound love to jump in the cab of his big rig quick because he won’t stay around for long — an urgency the band displays in their own passion and energy on each recording.
Michael Scudiero (bass) and Robert Anderson (drums) deliver solid performances throughout the album, exploring the interplay between instruments and laying down a firm rhythmic foundation. In addition to Perez, guest players include award-winning fiddler Jason Andrew and multi-instrumentalist John David Kent (organ, piano), who engineered and produced the album in his North Texas studio.
For Lost Immigrants, Pasaporte is not only a collection of songs about journeys, destinations and endless possibilities – it’s a commentary on the journey the band has taken over the past several years. The sonic travelogue is rife with audio goodness and lyrical thoughtfulness and finds a permanent home on drives down long open highways or smaller country roads.