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The best kept secret in music


"Driveway - CD review 4.5 stars"

It’s quite amusing when you’re sent a CD in the mail by a band and the first line of the press release reads thus: “Some people are trying to call us alt-country, but that’s ‘cause they’re lazy. Alt-country is a buzzword right now… we’re just a rock band.” Well, boys, you came to the right place. I’m lazy as hell; in fact, it took me three weeks just to open the jiffy bag you sent the CD in. But, now we’re here, and I’m awake enough to write a review, what have we got?

What we have is a four-piece roots rock band hailing from Toronto, formed from the ashes of previous bands. Frontman Jason Taylor and bass player Chris Sytnyk formerly graced the band known as MadE, while drummer Robin Mason previously performed percussion duties for Superhalo. Corey Matheson, whose pedal steel and banjo playing probably does the most to edge this toward the ‘alt-country’ stable, completes the lineup. The band’s musical palette is broad, with some influences easier to spot than others. On opening track ‘Always’, there are strong hints of classic-era Jayhawks, particularly Louris and Olson in the vocal arrangement and the harmonies. This track is a pretty fair reflection of the stripped-down Driveway sound, a layering of guitars and maudlin vocals over the top of a gently ambling rhythm section. However, they don’t do stripped-down that often, and the rest of the album is shot through with big rock guitars. Though there’s an eye here on the roots rock movement, Driveway also seem to have another eye on the FM radio market. To this end, we get three tracks, one after the other, that are pure country-rock gold; big anthemic choruses perfect for those post night out, “all back to mine” type singalongs.

“Butterfly” threatens to provide the missing link between the Stones’ “Paint It Black” and Neil Young’s “Rocking In The Free World” before bursting into a chorus that begs for radio airplay. “Kiss”, though slower and more measured, dosed with harmonica, a reliance on some fragile pedal steel and sterling backing vocals from guest Stella Panacci (who lifts many of the songs with her harmonies) would stand up against anything on the Jayhawks’ “Rainy Day Music”. “Angels”, which thankfully is not a Robbie Williams cover, is one of those songs you swear you’ve heard before but can’t quite place. And it’s big, building to a crescendo of Hammond organ and guitars, before pulling back at the end to end subtly. Textbook country-rock of the kind Ryan Adams pulled out of the bag on ‘Gold’.

The rest of the album doesn’t disappoint, though at times the melancholy of the vocals and lyrics don’t seem to be in parallel with the musical arrangements - but as any Smiths fan will tell you, that’s never been a bad thing. At times (‘Unlucky Man’, reminiscent of a half-speed ‘(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville’), there are hints of REM in the mix, particularly in Taylor’s vocals. And that’s not a bad thing either. Well produced, with space for every instrument to be heard without the sound being compressed or muddied, and cleverly written, this is a debut album with a lot to admire about it. Fans of the Jayhawks or Gold-era Ryan Adams ought to snap this up, and there’s every indication that, with songs as strong as this, Driveway will go on to shift albums by the bucketload.

"John Sakamoto's Anti-Hit List"

DRIVEWAY, "Angels": Though this Toronto outfit, fronted by Jason Taylor of MadE, has worked with Keith Cleversley -- best known for co-producing "She Don't Use Jelly"-era Flaming Lips -- and cites alt-country stalwarts Ryan Adams and Lucinda Williams among its influences, the sound of this, their most fully realized track, is reminiscent of someone else altogether: Jay Farrar, or perhaps even Carolyn Mark, with whom the band's other producer, Chris "Lurch" Rudyk, has also shared his deft, unobtrusive touch. (From Driveway, - Eye Magazine - Toronto


Driveway - self titled. 2004
Blue Rose Records (Germany). Curve Music (Canada)


Feeling a bit camera shy


Driveway is a band from Toronto made up of ex-MAdE frontman Jason Taylor, ex-MAdE bass player Chris Sytnyk, drummer Robin Mason (Superhalo, Statistics), and Corey Matheson (Haggis) on pedal steel and guitar. These seasoned musicians have combined their influences that include Whiskeytown, The Jayhawks, Lucinda Williams, Coldplay, The Rolling Stones, Pixies, and Gram Parsons to form this rootsy alt-country rock band.

“Calling us alt-country is a bit lazy. People hear a pedal steel or a Hammond organ and automatically assume ‘country’, but really that has more to do with the instrumentation than the songs themselves. To us we’re just a rootsy rock band that can swing between the Pixies to Neil young” says singer/songwriter, Jason Taylor of Driveway’s sound.

Driveway’s self-titled debut is released in Europe on Blue Rose Records out of Germany (Drive-by-Truckers, June Carter Cash) and soon to be released (early 2005) in Canada on Curve Music based in Toronto. “We are looking at smaller labels because we want to start out organically,” says Taylor, “We’d like the band to find and define itself. To this point we haven’t contacted a single major label.” On their debut CD Taylor is the main songwriter; however the band is free to add whatever they feel. “I’ll write a song and hash it out a little bit at home, just to get the overall structure of the song, then I bring it in and everyone puts their own thing on it,” says Taylor, “let the song after it has been ‘sort-of-written’ end up Drivewayified. The guys add all the magic.”

Driveway was lucky enough to get U.S. producer Keith Cleversley (The Flaming Lips, Urge Overkill and Spiritualized) to agree to produce some of the songs on the album. Taylor and Sytnyk established their relationship with Cleversley on the last MAdE album. Cleversley produced MAdE’s Television Heart album. “Keith has almost no ‘amazing’ gear, but he can pull off amazing recordings in spite of this,” explains Taylor, “kind of like the guy who can whittle Michelangelo’s ‘David’ out of a tree stump using only a jack-knife.” The rest of the album was produced and mixed by Toronto’s Lurch. Mason said “the whole recording experience of the making of our record will stay with me for a long time, it was amazing.”

The guys in Driveway all have many years of recording and touring experience. Universal Music Canada and MCA in the U.S. released MAdE’s first album, Bedazzler and Universal Canada distributed their second, Television Heart. The group broke up after the Universal/Polygram merger took place in 1999 and they were dropped from the label. Taylor said, “After that I just wanted to get back to basics, back to my roots and just make music.

Driveway was formed in 2002. “I was writing for a couple of years, I remembered Robin from the old days and Chris was the bass player for MAdE, we put this project together and it was just the three of us for a while.” The group put an ad in the back of NOW magazine looking for a guitar player. “We only got one call and that was Corey Matheson,” laughs Taylor. “I remember talking to him on the phone and he said ‘I’m from Nova Scotia, I play pedal steel, lap steel, piano, guitar…’ and I said ‘holy shit dude, I’ll be over there in like five minutes.”

“We have all been in many bands before, some of us have even had a modest amount of success, but no matter what, we are in it for life, and I think to some degree this can be heard in the music,” Taylor said, “There’s something real about the music, there’s something magical when we are on stage together. I think the magic comes from the fact that music is a real part of who and what we are as people”.