New Album Reviewed by Chuck Fusca
Highway 50’s debut album was a kaleidoscope of sounds ranging from R & B to funk to ska and reggae. Not surprising coming from Al Laughlin, founding member of 90’s indie band, The Samples. Al wrote or co-wrote many of the band’s early memorable tunes and added a ska vibe to the band, along with injecting the sound of “the bubble”, which enhanced the Samples’ reggae sound.
Highway 50’s debut album featured a rich treasure of tunes that al had been concocting for years prior to the album’s release. It was a masterful effort as Al showed off his songwriting chops with songs about love, friendship, and redemption. It would definitely be a tough album to match.
From the opening sound of female laughter and the pounding groove of the opening piano chords on “Easy Way Out” to the thrashing climax of “Pyrite Gold”, Highway 50’s sophomore effort definitely does not disappoint.
“Easy Way Out” has a driving jazz groove and features an amazing horn section, scorching guitar licks, and female backing vocals. Al is right at home with “Gonna Make it Anyway”, with it’s happy ska-reggae feel. “Just the Way I Am” is a pop-ska tune that is guaranteed to make you smile and features some fine rapping by Tony G. “Condoplex “is another ska-reggae number featuring fine vocal harmonies and the added dimension of synth licks to boot. Closer “Pyrite Gold” might be the most interesting tune on the album. It features scorching bluesy guitar solos and Al’s lyrics are introspective as he sings about his experiences and perceptions of life. “Watching days go faster then, I never thought they would. It feels we’re always saying goodbyes
Overall on this album, Al continues singing lyrics about the existential themes of enjoying life and pushing through the hard times. The instrumentation might be superior to the debut album in that Al has a full arsenal of horns at his disposal to help elevate the ska vibes. The band features a slew of amazing Colorado musicians including old Samples’ drummer Jeep MacNichol. These musicians have played live shows all around Colorado with Al and that adds tightness to the grooves as well. This album is a must have for fans of Al’s work and also anyone that appreciates good grooving music that just makes you feel good.