- Kyle Chadburn & the Earthbound Spirits, No Direction, Vol. 2
Kyle Chadburn is on his way to becoming one of the more dogged and prolific local musicians in recent memory. Since cofounding the Evansville Transit Authority with Adam Choiniere and Travis LeBlanc in 2002, the Northeast Kingdom native has been a fixture in the Vermont music scene. For more than two decades, he's played venues and festivals across the state both as a solo artist and a member of his many affiliated acts, all the while putting out records, including his 2017 solo debut, Faded Colors in Darkened Skies.
Chadburn's latest project is Kyle Chadburn & the Earthbound Spirits. The group has already released two EPs of originals written by Chadburn since forming in summer 2022. Listening to No Direction, Vols. 1 and 2, one gets the sense that the recordings represent a welcome creative outlet for Chadburn to experiment more broadly as he continues on the tour grind with the Transit Authority.
The first volume, released last October, explores the strains of folk and country that have traditionally lurked under the surface of Chadburn's work. On Vol. 2, however, Chadburn and company have ditched the acoustic instruments and the Americana influence in favor of a heavier sound grounded squarely in the rock and blues traditions. That's about as far as I would go in trying to categorize the EP as a whole, thanks to the eclectic mix of styles and influences that the group has brought to these six songs.
After opener "Try," I got ready to buckle down for a round of fast-paced and brawny southern rock. Spurred on by LeBlanc's tight backbeat, the tune's main guitar riff and rhythmic vamping are straight out of the ZZ Top playbook. Lead guitarist Rudy Dauth, meanwhile, skates over it all with deft slide work that bears the mark of Duane Allman's influence.
The EP comes to an abrupt simmer with "No Direction." The title track is a slow, bluesy lament, which might seem slightly anticlimactic at first, given the galloping opener. But it serves as the lyrical high point of an album that's mostly about people struggling as the walls close in on them. In a smoky drawl, Chadburn opens with a verse that's eerily moving in the wake of this summer's historic flooding: "Rain keeps falling, floodwaters at my door / Goin' to keep my head above the water 'til I can't breathe no more."
The group shifts gears on "Avalanche." It's a mellow post-grunge tune (think Nickelback with a slide guitar) sung by LeBlanc, whose grainy delivery, reminiscent of Chris Daughtry, causes the listener to wish his vocals made more than one appearance on the album. It's a mode in which the group works well and to which it returns on "Speak the Night," just after the swinging blues tune "Wait So Long," which showcases Mike Fried on the keys. Fried is a newcomer to the group for No Direction, Vol. 2, and his work on the organ and piano offers vital texture throughout, especially on the blues-inflected tracks.
Rounding out the record is "On the Horizon," a tune that could have ended up on either volume of No Direction. As a closing track to the project as a whole, the song seems to synthesize the sprawling influences of both volumes. As its name suggests, it hints at big things to come from Kyle Chadburn & the Earthbound Spirts.
No Direction, Vol. 2, is available on all music streaming services.