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Riding the Train 

DC-based musicians in Last Train Home hit the road hard.

These days, Eric Brace and his Last Train roots cohorts are making some new noise. A recent opening slot for Willie Nelson at Wolf Trap, a lengthy summer tour and the European release of the band’s latest critically acclaimed CD have helped ignite the group’s efforts to move from an award-winning Washington, D.C., band to a higher national profile. The timing for this popularity grab admittedly comes at an unusual time in life. Most guys in their 40s are piling into SUVs for a trip to the store and not jumping into a van for the next gig. But Brace would have it no other way.

“I can’t believe it’s all happening now,” the 43-year-old musician says with a laugh. “What the hell am I thinking?”

The group played its first gig in 1997 after Brace found fellow players in the D.C. music scene who were ready to break from their pop and punk pasts for a more melodious, acoustic-based format. Until the past year or two, the band primarily played D.C. watering holes where it found a loyal following. Last Train performed the occasional Richmond show at Moondance, but the gig Saturday, July 5, at Ashland Coffee & Tea is the band’s first headlining shot in this area in a while. Brace says he hopes to make Ashland a regular stop as the band sets out on the “never-ending tour.”

During this tour, Last Train will showcase the group’s latest CD, “Time and Water.” The 12-cut project heavily features Brace’s original songs, and the recording reveals a band with rock, swing, country, sweet ballad and South-of-the-Border influences. The core group adapts to many styles since everyone is open to new ideas and players onstage and in the studio. You might think this off-the-cuff flexibility could cause musical havoc, but not so, Brace contends.

“It’s not so much difficult as it is different. Half the fun is … letting the people pop up and sit in. This is a case of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. Somehow what we end up with together amounts to something special. Somehow we seem to absorb like some odd organism. Everybody wants to add to the greater musical whole. To me, it’s really flattering.”

How far Last Train takes it down the track remains to be seen. But Brace sounds undaunted by the potential ups and downs in a dubious business.

“I can be oblivious to that stuff. Right now, I’m living out of a suitcase staying with D.C. friends, Nashville friends and in the van. Pretty soon the van is going to start winning. We’ll just keep coming back.” S



Last Train Home plays Ashland Coffee & Tea, Saturday, July 5, 8 p.m. Tickets are $8 and available at www.ashlandcoffee-andtea.com. Call 798-1702 for more information.
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