Skyline Drive is what happens when 60 Watt Kid guitarist Derrick Thomas downshifts from art-rock to Americana folk. Topanga Ranch Motel is the first offering from the Thomas lead group that drips cinematic, heartfelt, mid tempo, modern day folk numbers,
The mellow mood hangs over Topanga Ranch Motel, with opener “The Switch” setting the personal violin, acoustic guitar picking tone. When the band steps up the tempo on “Nothing Like You” it is pleasant if not really as invigorating as it could be. “Rubber Bullets” is a disk highlight complete with weeping pedal steel guitar female backing vocals and affecting lyrics. The tequila soaked ballad “Sam’s Saloon” would be as at home in a honky-tonk as crushed peanut shells on the floor while “Damaged” recalls Little Feat’s “Willin’” in vibe and sound.
The group works best when it stays minimal, and while some of Skyline Drive’s tunes are a bit too laid back, when things come together on the disc closing story song “Yellowman’s Cliff,” there is a blissful assurance in Skyline Drive’s songs.