Jeff Churchwell – Songwriter, Lead Vocals,
Acoustic 6 & 12 String Guitars
Sarah Scanlon – Songwriter, Lead Vocals,
Piano, Hammered Dulcimer
Joseph Nemec – Fretted and Fretless
Electric Bass, Acoustic Bass
Left Turn At Albuquerque is a synthesis of 70s folk, 60s pop and classic rock, with lyrics that are not quite Shakespeare but are more than bubblegum (which, frankly, is a not-so-guilty pleasure). Relying on intricate guitar fingerwork, sultry piano, stirring harmonies and well-thought-out lyrics, songwriters and co-lead singers Jeff Churchwell and Sarah Scanlon work all sides of the street to fashion music that refuses to sit in a single niche, but rather captures both the ears and imaginations of listeners of all ages and tastes. Bassist Joe Nemec rounds out the core of the band very tastefully, with groove and soul one minute, and rock and punch the next.
The core group came together in 2009. Churchwell and Nemec had played together in the mid 2000s in a Chicago folk/rock band called Melanie’s Waiting. Churchwell and Scanlon met through mutual friends, during an open mic night. The band’s sound is most often described as “Fleetwood Mac meets Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young,” but there are also influences from Churchwell’s early bluegrass banjo days, Scanlon’s musical theatre training, and Nemec’s love of alternative and metal. The band refers to its compositions as “new old music,” very compatible with what has gone before, but up-to-date and lyrically fresh. That’s easy enough to accomplish when the band’s members range in age from 29 to 51, and their tastes run the entire musical gamut.
The band recorded in 2011 and released its debut album, “In Broad Daylight,” on June 26 of that year, at a release show held at Chicago’s Bottom Lounge, hosted by the band’s label, CAUDog Records (a division of Chicago Acoustic Underground). “In Broad Daylight” contains songs written by both Churchwell and Scanlon, with vocal harmonies compared by their producer, Ellis Clark, to those of Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris. Nemec, the band's musical director, provided the focus to the arrangement process. The album also features guest performances by many very talented musicians from the Chicago original music scene. The songs cover rock, pop, country, jazz, blues and bluegrass; a wide swath of the musical spectrum to be sure, but colored by the unmistakable writing and tenor that can come from only one band.
Left Turn At Albuquerque is a detour well-worth taking.