Route 3’s second album Losing Time so completely outstrips their admittedly fine debut that it’s almost like listening to a different band – except it isn’t. Jason Jordan, Doug Clifton, Roy Bond, and Gaylon Harper discovered an elusive element existed between them – chemistry – and the band’s self-titled debut now sounds, in retrospect, like a “getting to know you” session.
Losing Time doesn’t sound like that. This is an even bolder, even more cohesive, effort than the excellent first album. The four-piece definitely stands on firm artistic/musical ground with that debut, but the development with the second album is largely in the area of songwriting. Route 3 has taken the standard bluegrass formula in new directions without ever losing the genre’s essential spirit.
The title song shows this. It begins the album and intermingles traditionally minded imagery with timeless experiences/situations. Hearing the balanced point of view driving songs such as this and later compositions is the heart of the band’s exponential growth between releases – Route 3 gives us just as much lyrically as musically and the songs are better for it.
Few other tracks on Losing Time demonstrate that better than the single “Cartersville”. Jason Jordan and his bandmates soar to new heights with this track as it creates both a lyrical and musical world for listeners to inhabit. Evocative and dramatic, dripping with unquestionable authenticity, and shaped to the right length, the song leaves a lasting positive impression. “Lay Down Beside Me” is one of the album’s straight-ahead love songs and, at its heart, a country track with bluegrass trappings. The vocal harmonies during the chorus are especially well-handled.
You cannot understand a song like “The Bullet Took Two” without first understanding the long history of this sort of fare in bluegrass, blues, country, folk music overall. The jealous/scorned/heartbroken lover who resorts to violence as a way of assuaging their pain is a staple that Route 3 recasts for modern listeners. It’s compelling stuff that they pace like master storytellers – both lyrically and musically.
The core of fiddle, banjo, and guitar playing off one another fuels “Mississippi Line” without sliding into repetition. Upping the tempo over the previously much more restrained numbers gives the album a late shot in the arm that many listeners will appreciate. “Jasper Beckett” is another of the high points of the release, its penultimate tune no less, and the deliberate pace of the piece gives the vocals and music alike an ample stage to set the scene. There’s a great deal of arresting imagery in the song lyrics and listeners should pay them particular attention.
Route 3 closes the album with another up-tempo track entitled “Take My Hand”. It’s to the band’s credit, I believe, that they avoid the standard slate of love songs so that when you do encounter them on Losing Time, they mean more. The frantic pacing of the final track juxtaposes well with its sentiments and sends the collection out with a fiery flourish.