CD Review: Taylor Locke and The Roughs “Grain and Grape”

Take note of this name: Taylor Locke. Say it again: Taylor Locke. Locke is the next big name that should rise to prominence in the domain of melodic rock and power pop.

Some of you may already know the name through another band – Locke plays guitar and supplies vocals for the awesome power pop outfit Rooney (reviewed here). Locke’s solo effort with his own backing band called The Roughs (Chris Price on guitar & keyboards, Charlotte Froom on bass, and Mikey McCormack on drums), is not a quantum leap away from the Rooney sound and spirit. In other words, Taylor Locke and The Roughs deliver plenty guitar-driven melodies, often surrounded by harmonies that conjure up the ghost of the Beatles or Queen.

Taylor Locke and The Roughs sound like a merger between Tom Petty and Badfinger – they have a style that is based in roots rock, but clearly shows some influence from British Invasion bands of the 60s. Best of all, they don’t waste this likable sound on a bunch of junk songs – these guys can deliver the goods in terms of songwriting: crisp, memorable choruses that will have you singing along after just one listen. The lyrics touch upon universal themes, managing to be relatable without being overly trite (with possible exception of “Weekend Warrior”). Vocally, Locke reminds me of Owen Thomas from The Elms – he is a dynamic rock vocalist – gritty enough for the rockers, but also in possession of a sweet falsetto that is ideal for ballads. Sonically the album is terrific, mixed by the acclaimed Ducky Carlisle, who incidentally is the drummer for power pop supergroup called The Major Labels (reviewed here).

The record couldn’t begin better – “Start Me Over” is a blast of fun with a soaring chorus that won me over right away. I didn’t quite get the less memorable “Jennifer”, maybe because I don’t know said girl. Things come back strong, though, with a long string of consecutive radio-friendly gems like “Hourglass” and “Amnesia”. “Reach for the Sky” is also a cool track, I just wish Locke would have done something more creative with the word “sky” rather than just scream it. “Joy” is the best ballad on the CD, showcasing Locke’s gentle falsetto and the band’s ability to ape a Queen harmony. “I’ll Be Gone” is a groovy track laced with harmonica, thereby providing a welcome change of pace from the others in this pack of strong songs. The catchy “Stay Awhile” is another sunny, upbeat tune that ensures the disc ends on a high note.

I would highly recommend Taylor Locke and The Roughs for fans of Owsley, Bleu, The Grays, or The Elms. “Grain and Grape” may just be the best debut record you’ll hear all year.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10

Taylor Locke and The Roughs on MySpace.