Officially, Mize and the Drive formed in late 2009. Unofficially, they’ve been forming for the past decade as the members became veteran musicians separately, through other projects.
A little over two years as a band has seen debut full-length, Irene (Dirty Cabin Records), to fruition. And whether the instrumentation incorporates heavy guitars and jazz influence or keeps with a bare folk style with acoustic guitar, Irene doesn’t really have any filler tracks to speak of. The influences are obvious, but the 10 tracks are all decisive and combine parts of folk, jazz, soul with the South—mainly in Lee Ramsey’s vocals and the twang-rock resonance of Cody Malak’s lead guitar.
As seasoned musicians, Mize and the Drive can clearly write about universal tribulations without youthful, desperate angst, which is a plus in the sense that Irene has plenty laid-back, Grateful Dead-esque good vibes and messages.
The record radiates with very classic rock (“Antietam Road”), lush Southern roots (“Soul Shot”) and artful, pretty strumming (“Strangers”). Les Greer’s bass and Ben Wencil’s rhythm guitar tap out “Dazed,” a rock-and-reeds jaunt that emulates Dave Matthews Band’s hippie jazz style.
Two of the best tracks are entirely different; there’s “Rain,” a melancholy waltz with Alex Stevenson’s gorgeous saxophone smeared into the middle of the record, whose melody is vaguely reminiscent of Counting Crows’ slower, sweeter stuff. Then there’s “Long Way Down,” a morbid haunt with pensive bass and the opening lines: “The rope is frayed/but I’m holding on/to my end, anyway/hanging from the cliff/my nails dug in/and my fingers burned/hanging from the cliff/waiting for you to pull me up.”
Such is the diversity of Mize and the Drive’s influences.