Truckstop Coffee
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Truckstop Coffee


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Friday, June 03, 2005

Singer/songwriter Pete Stein was raised on a farm in Virginia, resulting in a calm demeanor that has served him well over the past eight months.

The host of a weekly open-mike at the Art Village/Gallery & Cafe in West Palm Beach, Stein was suddenly out of a gig when two hurricanes (and subsequent looting) closed the venue last fall. But Stein turned the negative into a positive by forming the Delray Beach-based "alt-country" band Truckstop Coffee with fellow guitarist Caleb Smith — whom Stein heard perform for the first time at his own open-mike

"If it's possible to be called familiar and original at the same time, it would suit us just fine," Stein says. "I didn't even like country music growing up. Couldn't stand it. And I didn't know there was such a thing as alt-country, but a couple years ago someone told me about Uncle Tupelo and I listened to them. Wow. It was country music that wasn't poppy or sugary. It had meaning."

As does Truckstop Coffee, which shows that the "alt" in alt-country stems from roots in rock.

On a recent Thursday at Dada in Delray Beach, Stein, Smith, and bassist Nick Orow dressed in country plaids and denim, but played like demolition men on Stein's raucous Wrecking Ball. "So many good girls to choose from," he sang in the song's first verse, which led to the infectious chorus of "I want the wrong one tonight."

Rootsy elements of Wilco and Neil Young, Son Volt and the Ramones crept into the rollicking Midwestern Holiday, a tune describing the kind of working vacation this future touring act envisions.

Longer To Stay had the feel of the Rolling Stones' country-influenced tunes, and segued nicely into an uptempo cover of that band's Dead Flowers.

Smith bounced and twitched whether soloing or accompanying on the caffeinated Madison County, and trucker cap-clad drummer Sean Houlihan (who'll depart the band this summer) downshifted and sang backing vocals on the mid-tempo rocker Pretty Little Smile. To emphasize its country-rebel colors, TSC closed a set with Johnny Cash's energetic Folsom Prison Blues.

See Truckstop Coffee at 11 p.m. every other Thursday (June 9 and 23) at Dada, 52 N. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach. Phone: (561) 330-3232. The group also appears at 10 p.m. June 10 at the Red Lion Pub, 10114 S. Military Trail, Boynton Beach. Phone: (561) 737-0434).

On the Web: - The Palm Beach Post

By D. Sirianni
Article Published Mar 9, 2006

Who / What:
Truckstop Coffee

Music Genre:

Since the revival that began in the '80s and blossomed in the past ten years, bands aplenty have sprung up, weaned on Wilco, Sun Volt, and the like. Along with local song-killers Charlie Pickett, the Silos, and the Mavericks, Truckstop Coffee continues that long tradition of American roots music, dating back to the Appalachian settlers who stretched from the Northeast corridor down to the deeply rooted South. The band throws its two cents into the cowboy hat with the requisite blend of lonesome lyrics, sweet melodies, and strummed, guitar-based accompaniments. Formed in 2005, the Palm Beach County natives are fixtures on the music scene and can be observed lurking around all the worst dives. If your dog hasn't stolen your broke-down truck to go bang your wife, you better be at this show. - New Times Magazine

By Audra Hodges

The guys of Truckstop Coffee have One Damn Thing to Redeem. I was watching Crossroads on CMT the other day, and Melissa Etheridge was saying, Country music, rock 'n' roll, it's a fine line. It's all about the song. I think that's true, no matter what music genre you are listening to. The standard labels rock, country, folk, pop, rap often are not enough anymore; the new style of music avoids easy classification. Truckstop Coffee, the Delray Beach based group that was named the Best Country Act of 2005 in CityLink Magazine, has been described as altcountry, Americana with a little bit of blues, gritty, twangy, hillbilly rock... and the list goes on.

"Somebody said something to the effect of, We strive to do something original yet familiar," Truckstop guitarist Caleb James said. "I liked that. I think it sums up our approach pretty well."

Truckstop Coffee is releasing its first full-length CD, One Damn Thing to Redeem, this month.
The CD takes a fresh look at some familiar country scenes, namely women, whiskey and life on the road. Most of the songs were penned by frontman Pete Stein with a lot of creative input from the rest of the band.

"I think there is a lot of imagery in the lyrics," Stein said, "but more importantly, the guys I play with are great performers and incredible players. People seem to relate both to the music and to our performance."

The most interesting people have fascinating stories to tell, and often it's the most interesting music that tells these stories. This band has a lot of stories to tell.

"Before I was a member of Truckstop Coffee, I was a fan," bass player Nick Orow said. "I was in another local band that was coming to its end. I saw an ad for a Bass Player/Beer Drinker wanted on the TSC website and decided to try out. ... The thing that appealed to me, and what continues to do so, is the picture that the music paints."

TSC's music often gets its influence from country life. It has to, seeing that Stein wrote much of it about his own roots, growing up on a farm "in the middle of Nowhere, Virginia, a mile down a red, dirt road, 30 minutes from school or the nearest stoplight. Life in a small town is a great way to grow up and a great way to raise a family, but by the time he was a teen-ager Stein was ready to see the world.

"When I moved out to California in the summer of '99," he said, "I listened to the radio the entire three-day drive and knew that I wanted to see the rest of the country one day. I see music as a great excuse to go out and see every little town."

A great deal of road trips and a fair share of introspection led to a compilation of poems that would soon be the 10 tracks on "One Damn Thing to Redeem."

"I think we are all looking for that One Damn Thing that makes it all make sense," Stein said. "Music did that for me."

Whiskey Shivers is possibly the defining song for the band. Combining all the elements that make up their sets drinking, love and that long, winding road. Whisky Shivers has even survived the tempo test. At one point, the song was a frantic, fast-paced story of someone who needs to get their life in order. With a little bit of input from the band, the pace was taken down a few notches -- without losing any of the quality of the original and has become more of a mosey through a hangover. Now, it's a staple of their performances with their most avid fans singing it back to them.

"We're constantly tinkering with the old songs," Stein said. "It seems like somebody has some great ideas for parts here and there that add subtle dynamics to the stuff. It's crazy to listen to some older practice demo recordings to hear how the songs have evolved."

One of the most striking things about Truckstop Coffee is that it's easy to see each member is having a blast on stage. Stein, James, Orow and drummer Venny Portalatin are having a great time, playing music they like and feeding off the energy of their growing audiences.

"More often than not, the audience becomes part of the show," James said. "It's great when people are coming to spend their evening with us, not watching us."

James, hailing from a musical family in Clarion, Pa., is becoming known around town not only for his strong vocals and talent on guitar but for his ability to fire up the crowd and bandmates with his energetic stage presence.

"We have a good energy on stage," Orow said, "and our musicianship with each other continues to grow every day. We also have a vast array of material, which allows us to fit nearly any bill."

One Damn Thing to Redeem will be available this month at Truckstop Coffee shows. Check out www.truckstopcoffee. com or for more details on where to
find them.

"I think we are all looking for that One Damn Thing
that makes it all make sense. Music did that for me."
- Pete Stein - Live On Stage Magazine - August 2006

Truckstop Coffee is a good enough live band -- it's the reason the Palm Beach County quartet gets booked to play all those street parties in West Palm. But even so, TSC through a live PA system isn't the same as TSC recorded. One Damn Thing to Redeem is easily the band's greatest accomplishment to date, and it exemplifies all that's right with studio recording: Every piano, fiddle, mandolin, and harmonica the band has added fits seamlessly into the mix, thanks to masterful knob-twiddling by Christopher Moll. And the songs themselves -- There isn't a throwaway track on this disc. Guitarist, vocalist, and principal songwriter Pete Stein tears things up while carving out a sweet melody or two, starting with album opener "Way Down South," a scorching, Southern-rock-styled barnburner that wastes no time with polite introductions. Things slow down for a bit with the Replacements-like "Pretty Lil Smile" and the slide guitar-driven country of "Madison County." From there, it's an amalgam of uptempo romps and wispy ballads, ending with the soothing, introspective "Whiskey Shivers." Call it alt-country, Americana, roots-rock -- whatever. It's good music, period, whether you're on the road to El Paso or on the subway to Manhattan. - New Times Magazine - 12/14/2006

Does anyone remember alternative country? It had those endearing nicknames like "insurgent country" and even the silly "y'alternative." It's not exactly gone, but it seems to have been forgotten.

Other than the fact that trends come and go, it's probably been lost from the radar because its main progenitors, Wilco, have abandoned its conventions for more adventurous plains. But for those who carry the torch of music rooted in a bygone era of traditional country and folk, it's still alive and well.

Believe it or not, in the glitz and sun of South Florida, there are musicians who twang a little. One such example is the newly-formed band Truck Stop Coffee. They are by no means country, but they do have a folk-rock sound reminiscent of Neil Young, Crazy Horse and other guitar-driven Americana music.

Singer Pete Stein has been a staple at Palm Beach County open mikes for several years. With a little help from father fate, he met creative partner Caleb Smith. Both are temping at the same office in Delray Beach. Actually, they work in neighboring cubicles.

"Caleb and I are the original two driving forces of the band," Stein said. "I have written most of the songs we are currently playing, but Caleb has a few in the works that are really gonna turn some heads."

Smith's song Raw Dog is a punk-inspired barn burner that gets friends and new recruits in the mood. "It's the hardest thing we play, and people scream for it at every show," Stein said.

Some artists in alternative country are urban converts. But Stein actually grew up on a farm in New York, far from any hipster revival of traditional country or folk.

"In 2002 I began playing out and meeting really cool people who turned me on to something called `alt country' and bands like Uncle Tupelo, Wilco, Son Volt and Ryan Adams," he said. "Having grown up on a farm with hardly any radio reception, I couldn't believe what I was hearing. These guys would play straight-up country with pedal steel and fiddles on one track and then hit you hard with twangy, blues-based electric guitar riffs on the next.

"The first time I listened to Son Volt's Trace I felt this overwhelming sense of belonging and purpose."

Smith's story sounds like the bio you would expect from a band called Truck Stop Coffee. He grew up on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, where everyone's parents were steel mill workers.

"I spent a lot of time listening to the classic rock that all teenagers listen to at sometime in their adolescence ... Led Zeppelin, the Doors, Grateful Dead, Yardbirds and Jimi Hendrix."

Recent open mikes hosted by Stein were Smith's first real experience as a performer and songwriter.

Truck Stop Coffee's songs are about everyday experiences. "Heartbreak, hope, hitting the road for a new town, drinking, living hard, love," as Stein described them.

"It all sounds cliché," he said with a chuckle. "But people often experience the same emotions in their own way. I've always admired songwriting that touches on the familiar while providing something all together new and fresh."

The rhythm section has amicably parted ways, with newcomer Sean Houlihan behind the kit now and a bass player slot that remains unfilled. Like most people who make music in their 20s, they'd like to do some touring. But there are no grand schemes.

"Caleb and I want to hit the road really bad. Who knows if we'll ever `make it', but that's not the point," Stein said. "Right now the goal is to use music to give us a chance to go see a million little towns that we might never see."

Their hope is to say something thoughtful and insightful where many have treaded -- and failed -- before them. For every Bruce Springsteen or Tom Petty, there are hundreds of bar band hacks singing about the perils of life on the road. Writing about loathing a lost love and drowning yourself in drink may be cliché. But, if it's done well -- like in the case of Truck Stop Coffee -- audiences will connect.

To learn more about Truck Stop Coffee go to The band's next show is Wednesday at The Lounge, 517 Clematis St., West Palm Beach (561-655-9747).

Jason Knapfel's local scene appears the last Friday of the month in Showtime. Please send news to Local Scene, 2605 E. Atlantic Blvd. No. 212, Pompano Beach, FL 33062 or e-mail - Sun-Sentinel

When alt-country bands play a surf club in a strip mall, you know it's a small world after all.
by Dan Sweeney

February 23 2005

In a fine example of dramatic irony, Homer Simpson once called Tijuana, Mexico, "the happiest place on earth." It's a phrase I use often to describe Boca Raton, and for similar reasons. Tijuana, filled with beggars, shoddy merchandise and bad weed, is hardly the happiest place on earth. As for Boca, any place that glorifies the strip mall with a massive pink example of the building deserves its own place in hell. When you look at it properly, Mizner Park makes for a perfect description of the whole town -- a giant pink façade.

But for a while in the 1990s, Boca Raton actually registered a pulse, which was partially due to the efforts of Baby Robots singer-guitarist Bobby Baker, who founded the Ant Lunch Musick record label/starving-artist collective. But the whole group -- which included South Florida acts such as The Ex-Cretins, Mr. Entertainment and the Pookiesmackers and Wolfboy and the Fantods -- spun off in various directions after the centrifugal force of Baker fled to Austin, Texas, in 2002. Many of those bands are gone now, but when Baby Robots played a show at Club M a few weeks back, all the old boys crawled out of the dirt to be there.

Given the enthusiastic turnout, I had to find out if Boca still had life, which brought me to the Surf Café to catch Truckstop Coffee, Humbert and Two Story Double Wide. With the exception of Humbert, this was an alt-country show, and despite the fact that you don't hear much about the genre ever since Wilco went sideways and started getting all experimental, this gig showed that, at least locally, the style is as vital as ever.

Boca being what it is, the Surf Café is in a strip mall. With its TVs constantly tuned to footage of surfers riding colossal waves, its hula-girl beaded curtain and its other beachy accouterments, Surf Café seemed an odd fit for this type of music. But after Truckstop Coffee hit the stage and the bartender poured me a nosebleed shot -- half Jägermeister, half Goldschläger, for the uninitiated -- such thoughts quickly vanished. Truckstop Coffee seemed right at home.

Pete Stein has played rhythm guitar and sung lead for the band since it formed in October, and the Delray Beach-based group shows that there is life yet in southern Palm Beach County. The quartet revels in the rapid-fire, rockin' side of alt-country and ripped through four songs before Stein announced that the band's next piece was brand-new. The tune was its best of the night. For the final song of the set, lead guitarist Caleb Smith took over on vocals, sounding like a growling, drunken Mick Jagger.

After the set, I leaned against the bar as Stein walked over, shoving his trucker cap in his back pocket. I took a long pull on my beer as he went through his group's tragic history with Mother Nature: "Our first show got canceled because of the hurricanes. It seems like every time we play, there's a major weather event -- hurricane, cold front, whatever."

I finished off my beer and slid the bottle down the bar before commenting, "Yeah, it's cold out there tonight."

Stein nodded and said with a grin, "It never fails." Barring a natural disaster, the band's next show should take place Friday at Red Lion Pub in Boynton Beach.

The rest of our would-be conversation was cut short by the opening salvo of the Two Story Double Wide assault, which took no prisoners for the next hour. The band launched into a scorching, revved-up version of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken," and lead guitarist Andrew Rockwell did a manic jig that would make Ashlee Simpson proud.

Before following up "Circle" with the always-awesome "Fell in Love With a Lesbian," lead singer Matt Edrington wondered into the mike, "How many emo fans does it take to screw in a light bulb?" After a suitable pause, he answered, "None, they just sit around in the dark and cry about it." Now, that's funny.

Less amusing was the absence of Humbert when Two Story Double Wide finished its set. A miscommunication between the band and the promoter meant that the Hialeah-based act was an hour behind schedule. So the audience was treated to a sort of Truckstop Coffee/Two Story Double Wide all-star jam, including covers such as "Dead Flowers" by the Rolling Stones and "Folsom Prison Blues" by Johnny Cash. It seemed a better fit, in any case.

Copyright © 2005, South Florida Sun-Sentinel - City Link

Though they're starting to move away from the Lucero-esque country sounds of their previous album and more towards the twang-tinged straightforward rock 'n' roll sound of, say, Two Cow Garage, they haven't abandoned the sound entirely. You can witness this best in songs like "16 Ounces" and "The Ballad of Joel Carpenter." - Bryan Childs

The shit-kicking, foot-stomping, countrified sound of 2006's One Damn Thing to Redeem made Truckstop Coffee the best thing going in alt-country here in South Florida. With For Dear Life, the band veered even more heavily toward rock and away from country, with standout tunes such as "Ghost or an Angel" and "Laredo Skies." Now, Truckstop Coffee isn't just the best alt-country act in South Florida, it's the best the Sunshine State has to offer; and one of the best in the South. - Dan Sweeney

Truckstop Coffee has an uncanny way of bringing you into their music in a way that you don’t want to leave, each song makes me want the next and the next. For Dear Life is an array of mini stories written on a master level. This band is a bottle of bourbon as I look out on the Blue Ridge mountains from my back porch. It’s what good, old music should be: raw stripped down and able to take you somewhere in your head as you listen. This sophomore album, For Dear Life, has made my Top 3 for 2009. - Puppet Show

Finally we are left with a Florida band that pours every ounce of heart into every note they play. When the electric guitar static jump starts Truckstop Coffee’s bar rock anthem, "Ghost or Angel," you kind of know you are about to hear something special. The six minute epic is a drunken sing-along waiting to happen, and really tells you everything you need to know about the band.

Emotion. Adrenaline. Loud. Alive. These are the words that the band channels with each riff, cymbal crass or surging chorus. Pete Stein’s voice sounds like hearing your oldest friend onstage talking about the good ole days you want to relive and the shitty ones you can’t seem to forget. The band sort of eschewed the country stylings that I heard when I did a quick check on their back catalog and went into full bore twang rock. Power ballads like "Costume" and the infectious "Laredo Skies" happily stand side-by-side with chunky rockers like "16 Ounces."

Drinking. Heartache. Family. Wanting to leave, but always needing to come back home. Growing up up North means I have no idea what growing up in the South is all about, but these words are what Truckstop Coffee makes me think are the most important things. Other than a few road trips to New Orleans and some fantastic weekend camping in Virginia - that were always heavy on legendary hospitality, booze and debauchery – everything I’ve ever thought about the South comes from film and TV. It might sound cliché, but if I had to force this band and this sound into a scene from a movie, it would be from Elizabethtown (a movie I hated by the way). When the band takes the stage and starts killing Free Bird… everyone just feels like they’re home. Truckstop Coffee somehow makes me feel like I’m home


2009 - For Dear Life
2006 - One Damn Thing to Redeem
2004 - Midwestern Holiday EP



With a passel of rootsy songs about whiskey, women, heartache and interstate highways Truckstop Coffee cranks out a reviving take on the road-worn genre of Americana/whatever-u-call-it rock 'n roll. Named after the powerful stuff that helps keep you between the lines on those long lonely drives, this young, do-it-yourself, four-piece combines overdriven tube amps, twangy guitars, and rough-hewn vocals for a vintage sound that'll break your heart and sew it up again with steel strings.

In their six years together, Truckstop Coffee has torn through hundreds of shows and had a whole lot of fun making good friends and fans. Additionally, the boys have had the good fortune to open for the likes of ...

Reverend Horton Heat
Jimmie Van Zant
The Georgia Satellites
Unknown Hinson
Drag the River
Two Cow Garage
Corey Smith
The Red Elvises
Roger Clyne and The Peacemakers
Magnolia Electric Co.
John Ralston
and more!

Through plenty of blood, sweat, and backbreak, TSC has earned a reputation for delivering honest, urgent performances everywhere they play.

When the band's not touring, singer/guitarist Pete Stein is nearly always on the road.


"...the band draws on elements of honky-tonk, barroom balladry and highway-driving licks to weave a tapestry of Americana as worn as an old quilt stitched by a Southern grandmother and just as comfortable as one, too."
- Steve Wildsmith (Knoxville Daily Times)

"Call it alt-country, Americana, roots-rock -- whatever. It's good music, period, whether you're on the road to El Paso or on the subway to Manhattan."
- Jason Budjinsky (Palm Beach/Broward New Times)

"Truckstop Coffee plants one foot in country and another one firmly in rock... The quartet revels in the rapid-fire, rockin' side of alt-country."
- Dan Sweeney (City Link Magazine)