Album review: THE GETAWAY DRIVERS – Bellatopia

THE GETAWAY DRIVERS - Bellatopia

[Release date 04.07.15]

Bellatopia, their fourth release, marks The Getaway Drivers’ 10 year anniversary, although only Wisconsin folk singer-songwriter Bob Manor (guitar, piano, vocals) and bassist Ken Keeley remain from the original line up.

Essentially an Americana/rock outfit, the band’s line up has changed considerably over the intervening years, but since 2006 they’ve been co fronted by Sheila Shigley (violin, mandolin, vocals) with the current line-up including Dan Butson (electric guitars), drummer Greg Thornberg, and post album recruit Iris Hutchings on backing vocals.

Crowd funded, Bellatopia ranges from rootsy folk/country to alt/country radio-friendly rock and opens on a sublime high with ‘Suburban Summer Shine’ – a piano riff leads off, Shigley’s lead vocals shine, the rhythm section kicks in, there’s a big hook chorus, and chiming guitars. It’s not a new formula, but it is a thing of considerable beauty in a vein not dissimilar to GRTR! UK favourites Katy Lied (who sadly, seem to have vanished since their excellent 2011 release Summer Lightning).

Elsewhere there’s melancholy folk/country ballads – ‘Warning Bones’ having a wonderfully bitter sweet mid-section guitar break, bouncy Jeff Lynne-style ditties, some wonderful harmonising à la early Deacon Blue on the up tempo ‘A Call Out’, and ‘Better Days’ captures memories of early Simon and Garfunkel.

Nothing is over embellished, and at times Bellatopia reflects the golden era that gave us bands like River City People and Love & Money in the late 1980′s.  The other standout number is ‘Signs’ – where Manor’s Tom Petty-influenced vocals combine to marvellous effect with Steely Dan-ish jazzy vibes and some delightful lead guitar work.  It’s another impossibly catchy number.

It’s an accomplished release, and one that offers a broad range of styles.  Pursue the right one and The Getaway Drivers could just outrun the pack.  ****

Review by Pete Whalley


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