Lost Dog Street Band is a band that falls somewhere under the broad umbrella of Americana and folk. The core members of the band are Benjamin Tod (guitar, vocals) and Ashley Mae (fiddle, vocals). Both of them left home at age 17. They spent some time hopping trains and busking across the country. As you might expect, that certainly leaves them with lots of stories to tell.
On their previous albums, the band incorporated drums and pedal steel to go along with the guitar, bass, and fiddle. The new album is entitled Glory, and it marks a shift for the band. The arrangements are much more spare, with just guitar, slide guitar, and fiddle. That spare instrumentation provides the backdrop for some tough songs about addiction and redemption. Of the new album, Tod said, “I wanted to make an album with the specific intention of being raw but full at the same time and to get back to our roots.”
Part of the raw feeling of the album has to do with the themes in some of these songs. “Fighting like Hell to Be Free” is a song about living with addiction, a topic that hits close to home for Tod. In it, he sings about living “in the shadow of a tomb, filled with all the pages of a life I never thought that I would choose.” You can feel the weight of the burden the narrator bears in the daily struggle, but there is hope when he sings, “Tomorrow at dawn, I’m fighting like hell to be free.”
“Cost of the HIgh” is another heartfelt examination of addiction. The melody of this one isn’t quite as mournful as other songs, but the message hits just as hard. In it, he sings, “Every day will become your last time. Sacrifice your body, soul, and mind. Chalk it all to the cost of the high.”
In addition to tough and gritty themes is the overall feel of the album. The songs are generally downtempo and the tone of the fiddle is almost mournful. “Jalisco Bloom” is a good example. The arrangement is pretty spare and Ashley Mae plays some sad, sustained notes on the fiddle that match the story of the song. Tod sings, “I stumble down the empty avenue. If this is the bottom, I fell through. With a spade, I dug my grave into perdition’s tomb.”
You can’t call this a bluegrass album, although it does share some similarities. The instrumentation of guitar, bass, and fiddle lends to the bluegrass feel. On top of that, the slide guitar has a tone that borders on a Dobro and the band displays vocal harmonies that have always been a part of bluegrass.
This is an honest album whose lyrics hit even harder because of the spare instrumentation. The stories in these songs are heavy, but they provide a beacon of hope for those who are struggling. The band shows that sometimes the best way to deal with your struggles is to sing about them.
Photo credit: Justin Dye