It doesn’t matter how much they want to avoid listeners viewing them as a retro act, and I don’t blame them, bands like Ludlow Creek are far and few between. The quintet has five capable vocalists, and each member is a multi-instrumentalist who makes frequent use of their musical flexibility while maintaining consistency. It’s a by-product of the band’s considerable experience playing together.
They first formed in the middle of the 2010’s as Southbound and the Dayton, Ohio based band built a respected reputation as one of the area’s best cover acts. Their individual blend of “modern classic rock” is much wider than any label and they began writing their own material. A well-received debut as Southbound set the table for a follow-up but the band decided on a major change of direction before entering the studio. They rechristened themselves Ludlow Creek and began a new chapter in their story.
Hands of Time, the aborted second Southbound album, is a deep and rich affair. Eight songs doesn’t seem like a lot in our modern era of bloated studio releases, but it wasn’t long ago that collections were much more concise affairs than the sprawling product they often are today. “Instant Replay” is a good example of that concision. This is a no-nonsense opener highlighting the sharpest edges of the band’s rock chops without ever foregoing the full array of their influences.
I believe some listeners may miss it on the first go-around with Hands of Time, but songs such as “Nine Mile Road” and others have potent lead guitar work. Their artistry is obvious. You won’t find any overkill with Allen Seals and Dave Benson’s guitar playing and their gifts are considerable enough they can effortlessly invoke melodic fireworks. Both players add a lot to the release and this song is an excellent illustration of their contributions.
“Hands of Time”, the album’s title song, is one of its definite peak moments. Many listeners will come away from hearing these songs impressed by all of them but quite taken, in particular, by two or three exceptional moments. I hear this as one. The dramatic structure Ludlow Creek uses never sounds labored or overwrought; the airiness of particular passages scattered through the arrangement is especially effective. The stark yet deeply felt simmer of “Now I Can Bleed” is one of the album’s sleeper gems.
I really like the smoky organ providing color throughout the track while Benson and Seals weave memorable guitar lines throughout the song. The careful step by step construction of this song is one of the best examples of their songwriting prowess included on the release. “She’s My Baby” may divide some listeners; a portion of Ludlow Creek’s audience may hear it as a throwaway while others, however, will enjoy it as the deceptively playful tune it is. This album has a lot of twists and turns, surprises, and sparkles with wit and wisdom from beginning to end. Ludlow Creek’s Hands of Time is a worthwhile experience for anyone who gives it a chance.