Ludlow Creek, in a way, is a band born of COVID-19, but the band’s roots run deeper. The band ran for six plus years as a quintet called Southbound covering popular songs throughout their home state Ohio and the surrounding region. The band mates and friends decided in 2019, however, that they wanted to follow the winds of fortune, fair or foul, change the band’s name, and begin recording and performing original material. Their first release Hands of Time reset the table for the band as few such acts could ever claim.
Their new album Which Way is Forward?, however, expands the possibilities of this band in a way that’s impossible to encompass with a single listen. You are going to have to live with this album for a while. Sinewy countrified lead guitar peppers the opener “Finding Our Way Back”, a song that can be heard as a larger commentary on all of us feeling our way through the dark of a post-COVID world where everything seems changed. It is not heavy handed, however.
Nothing about this album is. “What About Love?”, the album’s second track, is arguably the closest Ludlow Creek’s second outing comes to outright love balladry. It has a chance of enjoying widespread appeal, however, because it touches an obviously universal nerve with its message. Ludlow Creek prove to be an excellent vehicle for its delivery and never make listeners feel like they’re listening to poppy claptrap.
They aren’t afraid of surprising listeners, however. Many will be taken perhaps a bit off guard by the instrumental “Chiano Morning” with its almost Jethro Tull-like character. It blossoms with melody, smartly played and its touch always lilting, and never over-extends its welcome with listeners. “Stoney Lonesome Road” will resonate deeply with many and it is an excellent choice for an album single. It is not your typical elegiac “looking back on youth from middle-age” song musically.
Many artists and bands customarily adopt a strident rock edge or aching acoustic backing for such fare. Ludlow Creek approaches the song, however, with several different “mini-movements” during its duration. It builds into a full-band performance after an otherwise muted opening and the transition is arguably the song’s peak moment. “With You” takes Ludlow Creek in a slightly surprising direction as it is a punchy rocker relatively late in the album’s running order. Michelle Scarpelli’s keyboards are especially important for this song and her harmony vocals are equally crucial as well.
The album’s penultimate cut “Never Knew the Man” is an appropriately rousing track for its place in the running order. Ludlow Creek’s unique and personalized take on “classic rock” registers as recognizable while still brandishing a genuine individual edge. They close the album with “Sunrise in the Trees”, a settled and measured performance that never sounds too pat or over-rehearsed. It’s a near-perfect ending to the collection without drawing too much attention to itself and invites listeners to keep trying Ludlow Creek out as they grow and continue releasing new material.