McAlister Drive Live In Studio

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To watch video of McAlister Drive perform “Ocean Skip Away” Click Here!

McAlister Drive, a band founded in New Orleans in 2006, brought an eclectic sound to the WERS studio Monday morning. Fronted by Christoph Edward Rudolf Krey, an impressive multi-tasker on vocals, guitar, harmonica, and piano, with Scarlett Deering on fiddle and vocals and Grace Van’t Hoft on banjo, dobro, and vocals, the three members of the band delivered songs that sampled a variety of genres. It’s been a long-running joke for both the members of the band and their fans alike that the band members themselves haven’t quite figured out how to define their music. In the past, McAlister Drive has billed itself as “rock for people who like Folk, Soul, Blues, and Pop,” and they cite Mumford & Sons and Ryan Adams as major musical influences. While their sound certainly encompasses all of these genres, the band has started to grow in a particular direction.

“I think it’s got a little bit more sort of a full sound,” said Krey, when asked about the evolution of McAlister Drive over the past several years. “We’ve gone more in an Americana type direction instead of the rock direction we used to be. Not to say that we don’t still play a lot of rock music on stage; we’ve just grown to be a band that can kind of play any type of different show and any different type of festival.”

The Americana, folksy element is obvious in their first song, “Ocean Skip Away,” off of their 2012 full-length album The Goddess. It’s a track that’s both sad and hopeful, a song that surely resonates with countless fans. Krey’s performance on harmonica, guitar, and vocals was personal and accessible; there is a genuine emotion in his voice as he sings, and the wistful lyrics of, “Gonna get you back/get you back girl,” were empowered by the vocal harmonies created by Krey, Deering, and Van’t Hoft. The harmonizing of three voices created the full sound Krey referenced, but even in that fullness the sound remained gentle, and all of the components of the song worked together, with Deering’s fiddle playing shining.

Undoubtedly, Krey’s experience in New Orleans has helped immensely in shaping the sound, too.

“New Orleans taught me a lot,” said Krey. “It taught me how to play with a lot of different types of musicians.” He also explained the attitude regarding music in New Orleans, saying that the locals are “very knowledgeable about what good music and good beats are, and they keep pushing you to write better music all the time.”

Following “Ocean Skip Away,” Krey put down his guitar and sat at the piano and started the opening of “Hands In Your Pockets,” a track from both their 2010 EP Missing Figures and their full album. Without the guitar and piano, the song sounds miles away from “Ocean Skip Away,” but it still has the distinct McAlister Drive sound thanks to Krey’s vocals, the harmonizing between band members, and the fiddle. Less Americana than “Ocean Skip Away,” the version of the song performed in the WERS studio veered more to the rock side.

McAlister Drive ended their set with “Path,” also off The Goddess, another piano-heavy track. A heart wrenching songsounding more soulful and with the slightest country traces in Krey’s lamenting vocals, the performance showcased the diversity of the band. While their signature banjo and fiddle do place the band more in the Americana category, there is still a more mainstream, accessible aspect to their music, most likely due to the soul in Krey’s vocals and the harmonizing. The subject matter of the songs also has the ability to appeal to a wide variety of audiences. It is impressive that McAlister Drive is able to so effortlessly alter their sound from song-to-song while still retaining their signature blending of genres. They are musical chameleons with heartfelt, genuine lyrics, and Boston is lucky to have McAlister Drive as a part of the music scene.

By Libby Webster
Photo by Chris Paredes

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