When Driftwood released its first full-length album, Rally Day, recorded in their hometown of Binghamton, a unique sound transpired that reflected not only the working-class ethos of an upstate New York town, but a coalescing of identity, influence, and uninhibited musical spirit.
“It’s sometimes tough to keep any sort of focus on style or sound when you have three different songwriters,” guitarist Dan Forsyth conceded. Longtime friend and banjoist Joe Kollar offers, “I consider our sound to be more of an attitude and an approach – the result of all of our influences in a completely open musical forum where the only stipulation is to create it from the heart.” “Really Driftwood is a song based group,” fiddler Claire Byrne added incisively.
And even though they come from different directions, the three founding members – along with bassist Joey Arcuri – tend to end up at the same place.
That unity, as well as the joy derived from playing together, can be heard throughout City Lights. It takes them on a familiar road and serendipitous evolution, replete with folk, old-time, country, punk, and rock, depending on their personal moods and their songs’ needs.
Increased songwriting and close-quarter living on tour manifested strengthened relationships and new energy. “Keeping this kind of touring schedule, we thought of recording albums as a sort of secondary thing and considered ourselves a ‘live’ band. We learn so much on the road and this kind of work has always felt productive,” Forsyth explains.
And while in the past they used the stage to work out arrangements of new songs, for City Lights, they used the studio. “It wasn’t until this last album that we took some time off to learn more about being in the studio. We wanted to take our time and record on our own terms.”
As evidence of their growth and compatibility, both Forsyth and Byrne tag “Skin and Bone” as the head of the album. It’s a Kollar composition that he says “came from a reflection I had of myself and life on the road, in general. It touches on trying to keep perspective, forging ahead, and embracing the future.” Clearly, that’s a state of mind they can all relate to.
The heart of the album, though, is a toss up with Forsyth choosing the romance of “Too Afraid,” Byrne picking the nostalgia of “The Waves,” and Kollar tapping the excitement of the title track. That disparity may be because, in their decade together, the musicians have all undergone monumental life changes. They have come into their own… together. “Generally speaking, there’s a maturity to us now,” Kollar explains. “We have a bit of experience doing what we do and the music reflects that point of view. The song subjects, our playing/singing abilities, our recording abilities, and our relationships have all matured.”
That’s precisely what’s heard in the music. A sharpened band. Skilled songwriters. Down-right masterful instrumentalists. And the sum of their seasons together has only strengthened their fabric. It’s pretty clear in their current songwriting and recordings as well, as Driftwood is now laying the groundwork for an upcoming album set to be released in the Fall of 2018. If history is any indication, it will be another strong step forward for this talented group.