The Ravenna Colt: ‘Terminal Current’

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The Ravenna Colt is the side project of former My Morning Jacket guitarist Johnny Quaid, who co-founded MMJ with Jim James. He left the group in 2004 after the release of It Still Moves (taking with him the Kentucky farm they used to record on, incidentally changing their sound) and deigned to do what so many good ole boys have done: he moved west to find himself, and… became a carpenter? Yes, he went full Notebook on us.

Fortunately, he didn’t quit writing songs, and eventually had enough material to warrant moving back east to Tennessee, where twang dreams come true. As The Ravenna Colt, Quaid (nee John McQuade, but that doesn’t sound enough like the name of a Captain Planet associate, does it?) released 2010’s Slight Spell.

After that, Quaid moved again to Boise, Idaho and began working on what would become this year’s Terminal Current. This is a record full of lush, warm sounds that mimic Quaid’s own contrails – distinctly southern, but yearning to move toward America’s upper lefthand corners. Don’t get me wrong – My Morning Jacket’s influence is still heavily felt, especially in rhythmic tracks like “National Dander.”

Terminal Current is the same kind of sweetly sad, expansive western Americana that put the Jacket on the map. Yet it bears more resemblance to the more pedal steel-leaning side of contemporary roots music. This album is full of reverbed, lonesome waltzes that your favorite bar plays during closing time, much the same as Son Volt’s peanut shell-sweeping Honky Tonk.

Then again, reverb is beloved on both coasts, is it not? Songs like “Yutu” and “Absolute Contingency (Heartattack)” are the same sort of wavy, pensive beachcore tracks that Real Estate and Built To Spill deal in. Quaid sings of pioneers “With the strangest fear / And a fantastic chance / To leave behind / The filth and crime / And find somethin’ else,” and one gets the sense that he’s talking about his own life’s journey – it’s not insignificant that he left a band he helped create right before they gained enough staying power to reach indie rock’s upper echelon, only to move across the country and become a manual laborer.

Slight Spell obviously explored the emotional fallout that resulted, and Terminal Current is a continuation in some ways. The titular “Terminal Current” is the most explicit expression of the record’s loose plane theme, as its narrator slowly learns the true meaning of that adage about how you can’t go home again. But this record is also full of resolve at its author’s new direction, and sees Quaid get more comfortable in his solo shoes.

3/5

Though originally from Virginia, Kelsey recently graduated from the University of Georgia with a cavalcade of neat degrees. She's written for other sites like Wide Open Country, Half Past, Seeing Trees Music, The Cropper, InfUSion Magazine, and Blurt. Kelsey’s greatest weakness is a large bowl of pho, and though she doesn’t know it yet, her friends will soon host a soup intervention for her. In her spare time she enjoys exploring abandoned buildings, crafting dad-humor puns, collecting vintage key chains, writing long lists that utilize the Oxford comma, and acting like Larry David.

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