Review: Chris Jones And The Night Drivers – “Make Each Second Last”

Chris Jones and the Night Drivers new album “Make Each Second Last” is undoubtedly a pandemic project, but many of the songs are “full of hope,” as the very first line on the first cut, “We Needed This Ride” suggests. This is a record filled with songs of reflection, renewal, reassurance, and recognition of the human condition. On that first track, “We Needed This Ride,” it’s the journey—moving ahead—that offers comfort and reassurance. “Wither You Roam” evokes a similar feeling.

Chris has two new band members: longtime friend Marshall Wilborn on bass, and Grace van’t Hof on banjo. As a singer-songwriter, guitarist, and band leader, Chris has been producing great music and traveling here and abroad for over 30 years. You can hear the influence of that travel everywhere. I love the bridge on “Bed of Snow”—it’s “full of hope” and helps paint a picture of Chris and his family tending the potato crop on his Alberta homestead. “Riding The Chief” is a recounting of the details experienced while traveling through the American Southwest. The narrative is truly bucolic, nostalgic, and dreamlike, all with a relaxed swing tempo that you might hear in an old Amtrak TV commercial. It’s one of my favorites.

“Leave It at The Gate” and “Everybody’s Got A Line” are both products of surviving the last two years. Chris has an uncanny ability to capture and remember details for his being, in whatever environment that may be. In “Silver City,” he recounts the arrival at a new place (maybe Aberdeen, Scotland) and the palpable excitement of this “new chapter.” “We Need To Hear From You” is a waltz, an affirmation of his guiding principles; the imagery of “Quiet Click” is surreal. A semi-sacred tune “They’re Lost Too” encourages one to think about the two sides of every coin. The one instrumental is “Ground Hog’s Retreat,” a Mark Stoffel/Chris Jones composition that has great chord changes and a bouncy vibe.

The production values are state of the art and overall, the picking and singing by the band are stellar. The arrangements are equally interesting, like the way the turnaround completes the lyric on “We Needed To Hear From You,” or the key change and split break on “Whither You Roam.” Also worth noting: Mark Stoffel’s mandolin tone is sweet, especially on “Everybody’s Got A Line.”

I first met Chris while playing in Bob Mavian’s Horse Country Band, a long time ago. I know his early heroes included Carter Stanley and Larry Sparks. He was so easy to sing with then, and now I find it’s still great to sing along with Chris on this new record. Highly Recommended. November 2021

John Stey

John Stey is a bluegrass singer/guitarist who began his career in bluegrass music as a tenor singing/mandolin player for the RFD Boys in Ann Arbor, Michigan some 50 years ago. He has worked with the John Herald Band, Howie Tarnower’s Boston City Limits, The Sam Tidwell Band, Bob Mavian’s Horse Country and fronted his own band, the Skookil Express in Philadelphia during the 1970s. Recently while living in FL, The John Stey Band participated in several events that are available on YouTube. His interest in acoustic music includes a mixed bag of bluegrass, country, rockabilly and other roots music from Hank Williams to Ryan Adams

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