The Rayo Brothers, “Take You for a Drive” (Independent)

With a family that includes members of the Lost Bayou Ramblers and the late Hadley Castille, it would seem more likely—and easier—for the Rayo Brothers (and sister Sarah Jayde Williams) to find themselves in a Cajun band, playing handed down songs from their well-known kin folk who came before them. Instead, not only have they struck out into Americana/folk country rock sounds, they have done so with original materials.

Take You for a Drive, the follow up to Gunslinger, does commit a few sins of borrowing from their genre, seemingly hitting a list of Americana prerequisites. Sure, some moments come off as very familiar, but the saving grace is how well all of it comes together. Daniel Reaux’s voice is tailor-made for Americana the way their vintage clothes are tailor-made for a roots band’s image.

Much of Drive is in the same gear, but the pace is wrapped in very well-written songs that show off not only their songwriting chops but great banjo playing that takes the lead, subtle steel guitars and dynamic string work. At the same time, it is back porch music and, thanks to Chris Stafford of Feufollet’s Staffland Studio, has a concert hall feel.

Drive is quintessential Americana not only in sound but the stories it weaves. Catchy with a strong songwriting depth that transcends both old-timey and country limitations, Drive is not merely a “paint by numbers” affair. It ends with the strongest cut on the album, “Maps to the Moon,” which features elements that build tension. This stride away from the genre’s core is reminiscent of their standout tune from Gunslinger, “City of Blues.” Likewise, it didn’t play by the rules and was a great cut because of it. Were the entire album in this spirit, it would buoy it even further.

Although the theme of the road and some of the sounds are nothing new, Take You for a Drive’s stellar songwriting and sounds give it a few extra miles to the gallon.