Much like the Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Atlanta Rhythm Section, and the Grateful Dead, The Runaway Grooms paint a spacious soundscape that expands in ever-widening circles, inviting us into warm, enveloping musical landscapes that traverse jazz, rock, and folk. Their newest album, This Road, captures the energy that the Colorado-based band brings to live performances, each song stretching out along a path filled with melodious meanderings and percussive pathways that dance around a central musical theme. With the tracks more or less recorded live in the studio, the true spirit of their music is revealed, one that reflects the musicians desire for their songs to live organically and for the flow of the band’s energy to be uninhibited; listening to the songs on This Road is like being in the front row at one of the band’s shows.
Cody Scott’s swirling keyboards create an atmospheric sound reminiscent of Skynyrd’s “Tuesday’s Gone” on the album’s opening track, “Jenny,” before Zac Cialek’s wheeling lap steel circles around and under Scott’s keys, all driven by Justin Bissett’s propulsive drumming and Zach Gilliam’s locked in bass groove. Adam Tobin’s vocals soar as the song spirals higher and higher, swooping in and out of various registers—minor chord instrumental bridges with piercing slide guitar solos and ethereal B3 strains—before fading out on shimmering organ notes. The expansive musical landscape is evoked through its emotional instrumentation and lyricism, one that tells the story of love, life, family, and the passing of time.
“Mister Ford” rides in on a snaky lead riff before heading off into a Steely Dan-like free jazz musical escapade. Scott’s B3 and Tobin’s leads play call and response, echoing off of each other for several measures before Bissett’s percussion drives the tune in a different direction. The sound takes off into the stratosphere as each instrument, including here a Jethro Tull-like flute and funky voice box and wah wah pedal, follows its own path without straying from the main road. Bissett and Gilliam’s synchronistic interplay of bass and drums makes for a hypnotically pulsating groove, and throughout the song and album the two repeatedly prove to be the unsung heroes of holding down an unrelenting foundation for everyone to play over. The song counts down to ecstasy as it bathes us in its oceanic sound, and it’s as if Yes, Steely Dan, Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express, and the Atlanta Rhythm Section met up and played down the bones of this song.
“Here I Come Again” rides in on Tobin’s smooth vocals, crunchy rhythm guitar, and a beautifully layered intro that propels the listener foward into a feel-good song that surely has people dancing in the aisles. The band’s musical ingenuity reveals itself early in the song as it combines soul with pop-folk, and the band repeats the refrain over and over Tobin’s snaking leads, which recall some of Jerry Garcia’s melodic modal noodling on Dead sets.
Scott’s killer rockabilly piano on the jangly rock and roller title track provides a solid foundation for the Allman-Betts like harmonizing guitar leads as the band scampers raucously down the rock and roll road. They even throw in licks from “Johnny B. Goode” as they create a rock and roll circus of sound, building to an operatic climax. On the album’s final track, “Heartwork”, The Runaway Grooms build an intimate folk rocker that echoes in the sparkling clarity of the instruments and vocals before it soars into a pulsing chorus that drives us out of our seats to the dance floor.
This is the third studio album for The Runaway Grooms, following 2020’s Tied to the Sun and 2021’s Violet Lane. Co-founder Adam Tobin is no stranger to writing songs or to playing. His brothers played guitar and drums, so naturally he picked up the bass at age 13, only to realize his true motive was to write songs that told a story which led him to picking up the acoustic guitar. “I could use songs,” he says, “to process things I didn’t fully understand or emotions I didn’t know what to do with.” Tobin and Justin Bissett, the band’s other founder, have known each other since they were practically in diapers and grew up across the street from each other in the small town of Northborough Massachusetts. In high school, Tobin recalls, the two were experimenting with music even back then. “We both grew up liking the Dead, and have always enjoyed experimenting with music in ways that are unconventional.”
A little over five years ago, the friends reconnected in Colorado, and while working on Beaver Creek mountain, Tobin discovered Zac Cialek, a quiet kid with a powerfully expansive sound on the lap steel guitar. The discovery led to a musical synergy that evolved into The Runaway Grooms. Tobin recalls living in employee housing: “I walked around one night, and any time I heard music I would knock on the door to see if I could find musicians. That night I heard this strange guitar sound, and there was Zac playing on this 1950’s lap steel he had repurposed. It had such a unique sound, and I realized quickly that this was the missing link for my music.” The trio developed its own singular sound, growing out of the sounds of the Allman Brothers and the Grateful Dead, and soon after situated themselves for an interminable trajectory when adding Cody Scott on keys, and Zachary Gilliam on bass. “All five of us come from different musical backgrounds, and we all write together” says Tobin, “This adds to the depth and variety of our sound.” As anyone can hear from the music, the band is very open to letting the song go where it needs to go. “We love a good story, and we love the element of surprise,” Tobin says. “ Furthermore, the poetry behind the lyrics is very important to us and it’s our responsibility to make sure it fits in with the music like pieces to a puzzle.”
Above all, The Runaway Grooms are passionate about connecting with their fans and inviting them into their music through its warm tones and emotional authenticity. They have developed a strong following in a short time and after 7 national tours, have shared stages with Umphrey’s McGee, Robben Ford, Twiddle, Trombone Shorty, North Mississippi Allstars, and Robert Randolph, among others. With This Road the Runaway Grooms are poised to ride even higher into the musical stratosphere.