Although the group’s name is derived from the claustrophobic darkness of New York City’s subway tunnels, Track Dogs is actually an expansive, truly Trans-Atlantic quartet, which has generated some acclaimed, genre-bending music. Made up of two Irishmen, an Englishman and an American, all of whom call Madrid, Spain their home, the band came together in 2011 to make a unique brand of music: a dynamic fusion of many styles, including folk, Latin, Americana and bluegrass.
The band’s percussionist and expatriate American, Robbie Jones, found himself in the Madrid after embarking on a quest to master the cajon, first in Peru, then in Spain, where he studied flamenco music and ended up providing accompaniment for dance classes. As he worked day jobs teaching English and as an editor, Robbie gravitated away from flamenco toward folk music. “It kind of all happened through and Irish pub, as these things do,” Robbie recounts, “where one guy, Dave, our bass player was a bartender…The other two guys worked at an English academy across the street and that was their ‘watering hole’…”
They connected in different configurations, through music during Irish music jam sessions, and personally, due to all being ex-pats in a country not their own. They were pulled together more intentionally when Track Dogs’ lead singer, Garrett Wall, already a solo recording artist who typically had a full pop band backing him, needed an acoustic backing band for a concert he had lined up. “The very first time we all were in one room at the same time and actually met each other was at our first rehearsal,” Robbie says. “I remember, that day Garrett saying, ‘This is no longer a singer-songwriter with musicians; this feels like a band. So, from the very first rehearsal, we knew we had something.”
The first gig apparently went over well: “…We got called a second time. The same venue said, ‘Hey, you know, we liked that, why don’t you do that concert again?’ So we got together again.” They began gigging and the band’s sound developed organically, evolving from an “acoustic support system” for Garrett’s vocals to the multi-part harmonies they now layer over their tight instrumental performances.
Many American listeners, who haven’t had much chance to see them live, might wonder how their live shows compare to their records. To quote Johnny Whalley of www.folkradio.co.uk, “I’m sure we can all think of bands whose energetic live performances don’t translate well into studio recordings, but I’m delighted to say, Track Dogs is most certainly not one of them. Their new album, Fire on the Rails, delivers just as much pleasure as their live shows.”
By Dan Walsh