It isn’t often that the cliché “there’s something for everyone here” holds. It’s a standard in promotion for a reason, the idea being that diversity sells, but it rarely reflects reality these days and is often code for a cookie-cutter one size fits all approach. Not so, however, with Daytona, Ohio. Hands of Time is Ludlow Creek’s first album while being the second album of original material from this lineup of musicians.
Ludlow Creek, until recently, was known instead as Southbound. Southbound first formed in the first half of the 2010s and played wide and far as a welcomed cover band wherever they went. However, the draw of writing their material called to the band, and they soon jettisoned the covers in favor of forging their path.
It eventually led them to rename themselves, Ludlow Creek. Hands of Time, as a first release under the new name, clears the past away with its first song. “Instant Replay” has a boatload of pop, the two guitar tandem of Allen Seals and Dave Benson leading the way, and Jeffery Friend’s work on the kit sets a brisk pace. “Nine Mile Road” deserves plaudits for multiple reasons, and it’ll get a lot of attention, but the guitar once again stands out. Melodies are plentiful during both of these songs but there’s grit galore as well.
Ludlow Creek has sensitivity without ever sounding shlocky. “When I’m With You” would go down like sickly sweet musical pabulum, but Ludlow Creek is far wiser. It isn’t often you encounter bands consistently presenting material that’s, by turns, substantive and heavily stylized. It’s here where the album really begins to peak. The title song “Hands of Time” is an exceptionally intelligent composition straddling the line between multiple genres and taking on its own identity as a result.
It’s during songs such as this where Ludlow Creek emerges fully-formed. The best moments included on Hands of Time achieve a relaxed synthesis of time-honored musical strands and even a casual fan can hear they have a firm grasp on what they are doing. It allows them the necessary confidence to shift from a song such as this to the near-torch song burn of “Now I Can Bleed”. The low-lit and smoky atmospherics surfacing thanks to the vocals and keyboards, in particular, make for an ear-catching change of pace.
Hitting listeners with a shot of glistening country-rock before the album’s conclusion is another good choice. “She’s My Baby” has arguably the best vocal arrangement of any song on Hands of Time and utilizes the band’s tremendous singing skill without ever obscuring other instruments. It has a jaunty and celebratory spring many listeners will appreciate and gives the collection a jolt deep in. “Freedom Blues” comes from the same place as the title song, in some ways, as there’s more daring in the playing and writing than other songs. Ludlow Creek affords themselves a slightly extended running time and turns this into a definitive statement for the album’s conclusion. It’s a most fitting end.