For all its loose, peaceful flow, Tallahassee’s “Old Ways” has a dark undercurrent. The kickoff song, “Old Brown Shoes,” is about breaking free from a town that’s nothing more than faded memories. But then the ensuing songs hammer home the perils of hitting the road; at one point, the devil himself warns, “Young man, don’t ramble, you’ll end up alone.” For all its sorrow and heartbreak, “Old Ways” is a smooth listen. Singer Brian Barthelmes subsumes the songs’ angst into loping, cowboy blues, using well-chiseled lyrics instead of lung-busting bravado to make his points. Guitarist Scott Thompson further molds the mood with clean, steely leads that subtly push these folksy tunes into a rock ’n’ roll setting. Nothing gets loud or wild, which is an accomplishment considering the subject matter: “Daggers” is a brutal breakup song (and has Thompson’s most intense solo); the 50-second “Old Ways” is the gospel of repudiation; and “Where Oh Where” is all seeker’s resolve. Tallahassee may not shout amid the tumult, but still easily grabs your attention.
Tallahassee plays May 3 at the Sinclair.