Audio Mixers: John Gifford; Jonah Tolchin; Marvin Etzioni.
Recording information: FAME Studios, Muscle Shoals, AL; The Carriage House, Silverlake, CA.
New Jersey native Jonah Tolchin returns with Thousand Mile Night, the understated follow-up to his 2014 Yep Roc debut, Clover Lane. On this outing, the young blues traveler finds himself in Muscle Shoals, Alabama working at legendary FAME Studios with a crack team of players assembled by producer Marvin Etzioni. Musically, it's a logical progression from his last LP, though at times, it feels more reflective and meditative, relying less on outright blues and roots explorations and more on a classic singer/songwriter type of approach. In that respect, Tolchin's growth seems more evident, especially on some of the gentler tracks like opener "Beauty in the Ugliest of Days" or the wistful "Completely." Here, his debt to American roots traditions takes a backseat to his own personal musings, which come off as more authentic in the process. A pleasantly casual vibe persists throughout the entire record, with many of the parts having been improvised on tape and most of the songs recorded live in the studio. The title cut, a classic slow-burning road tune describing a long haul trek from "Mobile to Michigan," features some slinky slide guitar work and spot-on chops from Tolchin's band, which includes guitarist Lucas Hamren, bassist Jamie McFarlane, and drummer Michael Bosco. Soulful lead single "Unless You Got Faith" is in keeping with the Southern traditions explored on his previous releases, and album-closer "Hard Time Killing Floor Blues" is a solo acoustic rendition of the Skip James classic. As a whole, Tolchin's rootsy acoustic mix works for him, though he shines brightest on the folkier, more heartfelt tracks. ~ Timothy Monger