On October 4th 2019, Left On Laurel dropped their debut album. Named “Saved By The Ground”, this is a record that almost didn’t happen.
Although the band (Michael Rosenbaum, Rob Danson, Kent Irwin, Carl McDowell, & Tom Lally) had been together for years, it was always more of a creative release than anything that they believed would ever be actually professionally recorded, produced, mastered and/or printed. Writing songs in Rosenbaum’s basement was just fun. Then, they started playing live. They toured in Germany. They performed at Rockwood Music Festival. And the fans started clamoring for something they could listen to the rest of the year. The band put together a set EP just for the Rockwood fans, but were still on the fence about an actual “album”. Enter Jason Manns. Having worked on the EP, Manns knew that the group had a full LP in them – they just had to be convinced.
Fast forward through Stage-Its, friends dropping by to help, the occasional raised voice, some amazing guest musicians, loads of laughs, the learning curve of recording for real, and “Saved By The Ground” is the result. Expertly produced by Manns and the band, mixed and engineered by Zackary Darling and mastered by Mike Wells, these happy tunes with deeper lyrics make this a fun ride – even if you’ve never heard of them, do yourself a favor and check them out. You won’t be disappointed! Read on for our track by track review.
Let’s Go For A Ride
The album kicks off with a track that really showcases the overall vibe and feeling of the group. Low-key, but with strong guitar work by Danson, Lally & Rosenbaum, bass line by McDowell, drums courtesy of Irwin – think the Eagles in their heyday. You are nodding along even before Rosenbaum’s lyrics start to resonate. Dealing with a lost love (even though she wasn’t supposed to be), he just wants to go for that one last ride. Second guessing the relationship, he isn’t sure what happened: if it can be, or should be, fixed. Some beautiful harmonies provided by Blake Lewis make this a song to repeat.
One of the more rocking songs, it is apropos that a track about escaping down the highway makes a fabulous driving tune. Open the windows, crank the stereo, and let the bass boom! While dealing with a love that is failing (a common theme), he realizes the roles have changed and probably can’t be repaired. So, he is heading out. The trumpet addition by Dayna Richards pulls the second half together so beautifully, musically mimicking the sounds of the freeway. Also, this is the first time we hear the gorgeous harmonies of Emma Fitzpatrick in a song, so win-win!
Right Side Of The Canyon
Full Cali-rock in effect on this fan-favorite. Chronicling a move to reinvent a life, it deals with the pluses and minuses of that reinvention. The violin of Kaitlin Wolfberg ties together beautifully with the guitars and the vocals, while the drums keep everything moving. The second appearance of Fitzpatrick gives a bit of a haunting lilt to the final ‘who are you’ harmonies. This has been our favorite song since we heard it last year in Germany, and we were really excited to see what the produced version would sound like, and we were not upset at all with the results.
Lost (With Your Eyes Wide Open)
‘Hey now, there’s a cost to your soul when you dance with the devil’ starts this harmonic 70s-ish track. Overlaying tracks of the band’s voices keeps grounded the guitars and Wolfberg’s violin – not quite letting them off to the full psychedelia trip they are heading for. Which keeps the song itself contained, as it is talking about mistakes we blunder into, even while we are supposedly paying attention. This track evokes summer fields in SoCal with a great band in the amphitheater.
Arguably the most introspective of the songs on the album, the single guitar starting and then the others joining in tracks his recognition of his part in the current love spiral. The harmonies of Skyler Stonestreet help him work out the partner’s contribution to their current mess. We’ve all been there — when you know it’s a bad idea to stay, but you’re so invested. Again, the seamless melody and the vocals tell the story, and Wolfberg’s violin is there in the background. As the last few notes from the single (now electric) guitar trail off, you feel you’ve come out the other side a bit better than you started.
Desperate Side Of Town
This is Chicago/Eagles at their finest. Richard’s trumpet? Check. Wolfberg’s violin? Check. Harmonies by Lewis and Elliott Yamin? Check. All blending together with Left On Laurel like they belong there. In this song of self discovery (and not being sure of what he finds), the instruments are extensions of the vocals – they flow together like honey. This song just keeps building, as he searches, then fades to a simple ‘everything you do just moves me’. Great finish!
The joys of living for the moment, until you meet the one that breaks the mold. This is the 80’s rock ballad of the album, so electric guitars are prevalent, and then there is the gorgeous almost acapella ending. Again, the bands’ vocals blend so well with Fitpatrick and Yamin that you’d think they had been singing together forever. This could have easily been over the top, but it stays this side of sappy in a very endearing way.
That one that should’ve worked out. That one that should’ve lasted. That one that takes you back to the first love butterflies. The guitars keep building, then Wolfberg’s violin ending. Does he remember the relationship correctly? Or, has he deified it, made it the one to grade all others to and then find lacking? He’s not even sure.
From the Pink Floyd beginning, this is the one outlier on the album. Not bad by any means, just a very different sound that the rest. This one makes you want turn on a lava lamp, I’m not gonna lie. An angsty relationship song – he’s fighting growing up, she’s looking to the future and not liking what she’s seeing. Our last guest harmony from Yamin; the whole song is a real trip.
The other song that is competing for most introspective – this has been a favorite of anyone who has heard it. The raw emotion, seconded beautifully by the Skyler Stonestreet duet, is something that is universally relatable. When everything points to this being THE ONE, and yet it falls just short of expectations. Wolfberg’s violin in this is almost a 3rd lead vocalist. The instruments are never overpowering, as this is a lyrical song. There is a gorgeous guitar solo in the middle that is unlike anything else on the record. A perfect ending track.
The album is available on iTunes, Spotify, and all streaming platforms. Merchandise, CDs, & Vinyl can be ordered at Left on Laurel’s website.