The Indianapolis-based 2 Taks Back have switched lead guitarists and bassists since 2012’s Coming Home – and yet, little has actually changed since vocalist Curtis Hartsook and Chris Dunlap founded the band years ago. They still play a straight-forward, often Tom Petty-ish brand of rock, referencing a culturally embedded classic-rock sound without aping it, and seemingly have a complete ball the whole time.
2 Taks Back started, like most groups, as a cover band – so they learned that sound inside and out. The trick, of course, is in making it your own, and they’ve done that once more with this new four-song EP, despite a shifting lineup that also includes a new organist.
The title track, which again tips its hat to Petty, begins with an insistent riff from Hartsook, even as he’s joined by the rollicking rhythm section of Dunlap and Paul Myhre. Todd Brown, who makes huge contributions throughout, perfectly mimics keyboardist Benmont Tench’s atmospherics on the best Heartbreakers tunes, and Mike Shelton’s lead guitar echoes every scaldingly great turn by Mike Campbell. At the same time, though, 2 Taks Back always adds just enough of their own free-wheeling sensibilities to keep their music from becoming a pastiche – and “Downtown” is no different. There’s a joy in the camaraderie here as something clicks with this new edition, and it takes this song to a different place.
“It’s Alright Now” settles then into a contemplative jangle that traces further back into one of Petty’s key influences, the Byrds. But, once again, there’s a twist: Brown’s organ, at first a gurgling presence, takes center stage for a solo that’s jazzy and free, yet remains firmly in the pocket. “Mr. Smooth” swerves back into a gritty rock vibe, as Hartsook adds a country-inflected bravado – something that frees Brown up to explore a serrated, Allmans-esque solo.
“Right Now” closes out the Downtown EP with a return to the opening track’s Petty-influenced vibe. This time, 2 Taks Back drills down into the essential lonesome feel of the Heartbreakers’ best songs – even the uptempo ones. Pay close attention, though, as Dunlap and Myhre imbue the song with a tough attitude, and as Shelton’s guitar absolutely sizzles. Together, they create an interesting dichotomy between sadness and frustration with the narrative’s wandering love interest – even as they underscore the layered approach to this music that makes 2 Taks Back special.
Up next for this resurgent heartland band is a full-length studio project, to be released later in 2014. If Downtown is any indication, that album will continue building down-hill momentum for 2 Taks Back.
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