Review: Lost Dog Street Band ‘Survived’

Music, at its core, should stir the emotions in my opinion, and nothing has encapsulated this in recent years more than that produced by Lost Dog Street Band frontman Benjamin Tod. Whether it has been the dark country/folk of the band he formed with his wife Ashley Mae in 2010, Spitshine which saw the two of them work with his best friend Richolas Ridout and wife Shannon before his heartbreaking death, or Tod’s oft anguished solo work.

Lost Dog Street Band 'Survived' Artwork
Lost Dog Street Band ‘Survived’ Artwork

Following the pandemic, Tod felt that his band had run its course and began wrapping it up ahead of concentrating on community based projects, stepping back from being a touring musician that was taking a toll on him and his marriage.

However, during the recording process for his most recent and incredible solo album 2022’s Songs I Swore I Wouldn’t Sing, he found inspiration in a change of recording methods. Coupled with the extremely cathartic and personal subject matter in those songs, this refocused his passions and to the joyous surprise of their fans Survived was announced.

The most striking thing about opening track Brighter Shade is how revitalised and happy they sound. Having spent so much time immersing myself in his solo material and their seminal Weight Of A Trigger album, the melancholic beauty that Tod laid bare with its downbeat tales of yearning contrast wildly with the hopeful and upbeat jangle, driven by the insistent drumming courtesy of Ben Duvall.

This heart-laid-bare declaration of love and the effort it takes for a relationship to work has some thought provoking moments but never loses sight of its organic, raw honesty.

Immediately Lifetime Of Work is lush, sombre and laidback in comparison as it defines Tod’s new mission statement. The man who wrote on their previous album ‘searching for something that’s hard to define’ now seems more content, still searching but with a more fulfilling purpose that mirrors his positive extracurricular activities. The picked guitar and flourishes of Tebbs Karney’s steel pedal add colour to the gentle swing as Tod’s voice stretches and articulates the passion and emotion behind the words.

Divine To Be tells the stories of other characters from around Nashville that had an impact on the singer, not big names to anybody outside that microcosm, but feeds into the album’s larger theme of celebrating life and the area where he was born and raised. This feels like a dance hall standard and is a love letter to the past that comes with a tinge of sadness and understanding which is a theme that continues on Last Train.

The faster shuffle of the drums and bounce of Jeff Loops on bass combines with the major key, multi-voiced harmonies in this ode to the train line that he once rode. This mindset feels central to the rebirth of the band; they are not back to wallow in misery, but to point to the past, tell the stories and grow from the experience.

This is a new Lost Dog Street Band, but they have lost none of what made them so special in the first place…

Muhlenberg County Line is another similarly influenced track, slower, dripping with nostalgia and love. I have never been a transient riding a railcar. The details of the story may have no relation to my life in any way, but the ode to coming back to the place where you feel at home, where your heart belongs, is a universal one that echoes through us all.

This embracing the mistakes of your past and having the courage to live through it feels like a huge mindset shift considering a few years ago, I felt like Tod’s music was the spirit animal for my own struggles. Having spent that time working on self-improvement, the message of living and learning whilst remembering your roots that rings out from Son Of Tennessee is a powerful one. The love for the area that formed him reminds me in some ways of Darrell Scott’s epic You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive.

Lonely Old Soul is a beautiful waltz with exquisite lyrics before the catchy Hubbardville Store dips its toe back into classic storytelling mode as they sing of the cruel nature of death, debt, loss, crime and punishment that misfortune can bring through the grind of capitalism. The matter-of-fact celebration of the minor victory for the little people through defiant revenge ties well into the beliefs of the man about supporting the more unfortunate in the community.

Musically, If You Leave Me Now, feels a little underrated at the back end of the album, but marks a slight tone shift back to the more serious subject matter of old as Tod sings of his love for his wife, which for those keeping score was one of the most heartbreaking numbers on Songs… in the form of Tears Worth The Gold. Here he sings of the need for completion by Ashley Mae in the latest, soul-bared open part of his ongoing musical autobiography. The brushwork of the drums and beautiful solo shows the execution that marks them out as one of the very best bands making music currently.

The title track is a dramatic ballad that tackles the journey through depression, struggles and emerging with triumph. Deeply influenced by faith, Survived is a song of questioning how, but being grateful for having made it through the hard times and embracing what is to come.

Coupled with some fantastic lyrical turns, this is a number that rivals the high emotion of some of their greatest songs like Ballad Of A Broken Man, but is infused with a hope that was previously missing. Tod claims this is the greatest song he has ever written, ending on an incredible high that rings true. To go through hell, emerge on the other side having attained some kind of happiness and purpose. That is the very definition of Survived.

This is a new Lost Dog Street Band, but they have lost none of what made them so special in the first place.

Label: Thirty Tigers
Band Links: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Spotify | Instagram

Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden