Led by singer/songwriter Derek Thomas, Skyline Drive play a folk/roots/Americana mix that is built around Thomas' thoughtful and laid back songs. Thomas’ voice has an element of grit that is perfectly suited to delivering his tales of hard lost relationships in Damaged or of more rewarding times in Lovebirds. There is a sense of storytelling in the losing song Yellowman's Cliff which tells of the tragic loss of a first love.
The ten songs all feature the fine band led by Erik Kristiansen, whose pedal steel adds much to the overall sound and also gives it a country overtone, though this is miles from what passes for a once noble form these days, as regards the charts at any rate.
On some tracks Thomas is joined by Leslie Stevens on vocals and her voice adds a nice counterpoint to Thomas' own. A number of the tracks were recorded in a cabin owned by the singer on Skyline Drive, but all have a consistent sound that utilizes the band's full potential. Produced by Thomas and bassist Mike Derricate for the cabin sessions and by Thomas and John Lawson in the studio, the songs are never forced and have a feel that gives their melancholic demeanour a depth and a listenability that shares their heartbreak in a positive way.
This album should find favour with fans of fellow singer/songwriters Ryan Adams and Ryan Bingham. Skyline Drive are starting out on a road that may take them many different directions but Topanga Ranch Motel is a good starting place.