" Not often a voice strikes the listener as one that fits the music and lyrics so impeccably, but Rego offers a jazzy scat delivery topped with polished musicianship, making for an inspirational indie anthem."
- Glide Magazine 2016
Lay These Weapons Down, the sophomore record from the Champaign, IL indie outfit, is a swift departure from their 2014 debut folk release Tolono. LTWD is a sonic exercise the group planned and labored on for over a year. Since the release of Tolono, the group has faced divorce, death, and illness, the quartet of musicians (Rebecca Rego, Matt Yeates, Eric Fitts, Cory Ponton) laboring over some eternal questions: the purpose of art, the importance of struggle, the rejection of safe and unexamined lives. The result lends a much darker and existential cast to Rego’s songwriting, and the band’s music as a whole.
Inspired by collaborations between No BS! Brass Band and a number of different artists at Justin Vernon's inaugural Eaux Claires Festival, Rego and The Trainmen enlisted their close friend Reginald Chapman of No BS! to team up for LTWD. The result is a record where Rebecca & The Trainmen's unique brand of indie-folk is enhanced and enlivened with baroque horn parts. Beyond just charting out brass, Chapman (who has previously worked with Foxygen, Mountain Goats and Natalie Prass), was instrumental in helping form and hone Rego and The Trainmen's new vision.
In December 2015 Rego and The Trainmen, Chapman, Engineer James Treichler and producer Beau Sorenson (Bob Mould, Field Report, Elsinore, Thao & The Get Down Stay Down) convened in the rural town of Tolono at Earth Analog Studios. Together they worked to break apart the new songs and build them back from their foundations, moving RR&TT’s sound into a new space. Drawing from the fertile Champaign-Urbana’s music scene, they enlisted the additional help of several local musician friends including Mark Rheaume, Joe Meland (Boycut), Sam Hastings, Ryan Fitzpatrick (the Chicago Symphony Orchestra), and Ryan Groff (Elsinore), throwing their styles and ideas into the hat. What emerged was a completely unique and unexpected new sound, blending elements of rock, folk, and pop with doo-wop, gospel and free jazz.
Lyrically, Rego works through the timeless duality of love and hate, declaring on album standout “Steamroller” that “my own name is like a steamroller / my own heart is like a crushed can / I just want my old man back”. The haunted whispers of “Truth Will Kill You”, the slow-burn lament of “Just The Same Mess”, and the beating heart of the record – the gorgeous piano-driven ballad ‘Rodeo’ - speak to the themes of regret, denial, grief.
Yet as with all dualities where there is darkness there is light, and there are moments of hope on Lay These Weapons Down. From the bold redemptive cry of the title track “sometimes when you surrender / you can run twice as far” to the defiantly hopeful “Drag Me Out Of Here” with its chorus of “I ain’t goin’ nowhere / gonna have to drag me / drag me out of here”, Lay These Weapons Down provides both the solace of understanding and the inspiration of shared humanity. “I want people to find some reassurance and hope in this record” explains Rego. “I turn to music when in my day-to-day I feel lost, scared, anxious, hopeless and defeated. Music is not only a respite from that, but it reminds me that I am not alone and fills me with hope. I hope my music can do for others what so many others music has done for me."
Rebecca Rego & The Trainmen have been honored to share the stage with John Hiatt, Ha Ha Tonka, Rodney Crowell, Mason Jennings, Bowerbirds, Damien Jurado, and so many more.