There’s an immediate good vibe upon hearing the opening riffs coming from Keys To The House, the debut album from Virginia’s Trongone Band. This band, led by brothers Andrew and Johnny Trongone, have a feeling of joy about them. It could be youth; it could be that it’s their first album, which is always a joyful release – not just of music but of ideas and creativity that’s been built up, but no matter what it is, this album is just that – joyful. Soulful, funky, groovy – this album has beauty, tunefulness and get-downness in numbers.
Of the album, Johnny Trongone says, “it was one thing to develop and write the songs over the past year as we played them out on the road, but it was a completely different world to take them into the studio, put them under the microscope and really turn them into songs.” Primed for the festival circuit, the band has graced the stages of Virginia’s Roosterwalk, Tennessee’s Riverbend Music Festival, Florida’s Slide Into Spring Festival, The Allman Brothers’ Peach Festival in Pennsylvania, and West Virginia’s Deep Mountain Roots Revival. This family affair recording process helped the band grow “so much on a personal and musical level, and listening back and dissecting these tracks helped us learn so much about each other’s playing.”
Starting with the Black Crowes-ish “Blind”, you know where this band’s roots lie. Certainly, there are some Chris Robinson-isms in (presumably) Andrew Trongone’s vocals, but there’s a real down-home essence that does equal the same kind of passion that the Crowes delivered on “…Money Maker”. The old-time honky-tonk piano drive of “Nothing To Lose” is a very satisfying moment, as the body of the song gives way to the beauty of Hammond B3 organ stylings, making this a near-gospel-like piece. “Anne Marie” is a straightforward country stomper that’s as catchy as the day is long; “Straight To Hell” rocks hard (a neat counterbalance to the country sounds of “Anne Marie”) and “Ain’t It Funny” is soul-rock at its naturally Southern best, especially with that delicious Fender Rhodes break.
There’s nothing I can say more than when you hear this album, you’re going to enjoy it. It will warm you and lift you up. Which is critical at a time when most music is instantly disposable and forgettable. And as a debut, The Trongone Band has delivered a strong first statement. Here’s hoping there’s more in the stable down the road.