It happens every now and again: An interloper breaks into our homes to remind us of all the things we forgot we cared about. Doesn't steal nothing--borrows, maybe--but wakes us from our slumber long enough to remember that, yeah, maybe there are a few things lying around the house we ought to take better care of, like that record collection we'd rather display than play since the Byrds are oldies and the Jayhawks are old news and so forth. Nothing Grand Drive does is particularly new, but these bright Brits do serve as a pleasant reminder that "Americana" doesn't belong to (United States of) Americans anymore--hasn't really since Neil Young and The Band came rolling down from Canada, hasn't really since the Beatles did Buddy one better. Amazing Grand Drive isn't on Lost Highway, alongside Lucinda W. and Johnny C., come to think of it; this sounds more like the old Jayhawks than the new Jayhawks, who, bless 'em, tried this time.
Grand Drive's U.S. debut is a baker's-dozen sampler, compiled from the band's first three U.K. releases (Road Music, True Love and High Adventure and See the Morning In); that means it can't help but come up a wee bit short, since the original LPs allowed for variety and texture and the leisurely climb up a gentle hill--context, in other words, which gets abbreviated (if not annihilated) here. (Those records are available through amazon.co.uk and well worth the import price, and then some.) This comp, heavy on the romantic and nostalgic and bucolic but without the heavy "ick" factor inherent in "-ic" artistry, eschews the stomp the band found on See the Morning In ("Life is a Car," which just about says it all). It's an easy-listening collection--easy on the ears (Danny and Julien Wilson sing like brothers who've never exchanged a cross word), easy on the soul. What you're left with is the sense that Grand Drive is as mellow as a summer-afternoon nap with the radio tuned to a station that plays Procol Harum and Fred Neil ("Wheels," which sounds a whiter shade of "Everybody's Talkin'") or early Wilco ("A Little Like You," "Jukebox") or Crowded House and the Jayhawks (everything else, damn near). But don't think you've been down this dusty road before; Grand Drive only sounds familiar because you loved it before you ever heard it, which will make sense one spin in.