Bellatopia - 2015

1. Suburban Summer Shine
2. A Call Out
3. Warning Bones
4. Wooden Box Heart
5. Signs
6. Better Days
7. Slippin' Away
8. Hope Road
9. Poor Man
10. No Matter Which Side

Based in Madison, Wisconsin, The Getaway Drivers’ brand of Americana rock has been a mainstay for a nearly a decade. For their fourth studio recording the band took a decidedly different turn, enlisting ace producer Brian Daly and delivering Bellatopia, a labor of love two years in the making. Born out of the wrack and ruin of a tumultuous period in which the band lost one of its founding members to cancer, songwriters Bob Manor and Sheila Shigley composed an album that communicates an emotional state of loss, love, anxiety and wonder.  

The Getaway Drivers launched a crowdfunding campaign, spread the word, and their fans came through. Armed with resources previously unavailable, they turned to Daly to bring the musical ideas to fruition.  

The result is Bellatopia, a polished landscape of musical intricacy and lyrical mystery uniting both the old soul of rock and the angst of the modern world. The lead track, “Suburban Summer Shine,” features a postmodern swirl of guitars driven by a mystic piano riff. It succeeds in establishing the record's dense and melodic tone, while more the contemplative “Better Days” and “Hope Road” pay homage to the sweet-tea nostalgia of days gone by.  

While The Getaway Drivers haven't completely pulled up their signature Americana roots, Bellatopia reveals a band that has taken a marked turn down a promising new road.

The Getaway Drivers - 2007

1. Bottle & Suitcase
2. Fast Driver
3. Shame
4. Stay
5. Oh Trudy
6. Billy
7. Mystified
8. Won't Ask Why
9. Wrecking Ball (instr)
10. Waiting for a Train

Singer/songwriter Bob Manor moves easily from amiable folk-rock to foreboding alt-country on the Getaway Drivers' varied new Americana CD. His best performance comes on "Billy," the fated tale of a young man who finally comes to terms with his decadent Daddy. He sounds sufficiently down-home on several tracks (see the John Prine-style "Bottle & Suitcase" and the Dylan-brushed "Mystified"), and many of his performances are amiable enough. But on "Billy" he adds some flinty reality to his grim narrative by employing a gravel-throated vocal style that fits hand-in-glove with its gray-toned vibe. Manor also scores points with "Shame," a loping folk-rocker that borrows its beat and some of its moody ambience from Neal Diamond's "Solitary Man." 

While the Getaway Drivers often follow Manor's lead, some of the most balanced performances come on songs sung by fiddler Sheila Shigley, a veteran of the local Celtic music scene. Thanks to her bandmates' spare work on mandolin and cello and her own shimmering vocals, the country-folk love song "Stay" wouldn't sound out of place on Americana radio wedged between some Alison Krauss and Emmylou Harris. 

To be honest, not every track here is memorable. But the Getaway Drivers are clearly onto something. Once they find the right balance of their boy-girl vocals, they could find themselves making inroads into a much larger market.

Tom Laskin - Isthmus (Jun 21, 2007)

The Truth is Where it's Always Been - 2010

1. Honey on a Razor
2. Undone
3. Beale Street
4. Hotel Flowers
5. Salt, Blue & Bone
6. Honey on a Razor (Extended Mix)

First there was Bob Manor, then Bob Manor & the Getaway Drivers and then the Getaway Drivers.  The changes are indicative of the trajectory this group of musicians has taken.  Now consisting of seven members, the Getaway Drivers seem fully realized; a tight, complete unit that is reflected in the music. Their style is often labeled as alt-country or Americana but that doesn’t fully describe them.  Manor’s songwriting, acoustic guitar and vocals are still the band’s centerpiece but they have an uncanny knack for taking uncomplicated song structures and adorning them with just the right amount of embellishments. Their 2009 six-song EP, The Truth is Where It’s Always Been, was one of the best of the year and if I could sum it up in one word it would be “beautiful.” 

All the elements that make them special are reflected in “Undone.” Here Sheila Shigley, who also sings with the excellent vocal group Navan, takes the lead vocal and her voice is clear as a bell. Steve Pingry’s cello and Shigley’s violin capture the plaintive demeanor of the song perfectly. Manor’s softly played acoustic guitar reinforces the delicacy. Dan Kennedy’s electric guitar harmonics are precise. Kennedy is one guitarist who always seems to play just the right part, never overpowering; always knowing his place. 

The final tune, “Salt Blue and Bone” is similar, this one with a sea-shanty feel that, again, coincides with the lyrical content.  The violin and cello in the coda is simply gorgeous. Shigley again has the lead but the vocal harmonies are what elevate the song to another level entirely. They achieve this mesmerizing vocal harmony on “Beale St.” as well, only in reverse as Manor takes the lead. The addition of Barb Chusid on keyboards was another significant event in completing the Getaway Drivers’ sound and on “Beale St.” you can sense how important her addition is. 

The leadoff track, “Honey” will stick in your head like glue. A radio-friendly pop/rock song, this one features a supremely tasty, double-tracked guitar solo by Kennedy. As a bonus track, “Honey” gets an extended mix, which adds about an extra minute of instrumental music to the track and brings the total length of the EP to thirty minutes. But you’ll wish there was more. 

The Getaway Drivers are also true DIY-ers as they recorded and mixed this effort themselves, took all the photos and designed the sleeve. The production is excellent and they wisely brought in Tom Blain to do the mastering. “Hotel Flowers” may sum up the band’s ethos best. Here Manor delivers a fine vocal performance, underscoring the band’s sincerity: “I see fairy tales and lies in your hotel flowers / I’ll be happy in disguise, killing off the hours / What I need your money cannot buy / Keep your hotel flowers.” Madison is fortunate it gets to keep the Getaway Drivers.  - Rick Tvedt


Black Dog Days - 2011

1. Black Dog Days
2. A Slow Win
3. Red is All
4. Gold Like Cherries
5. Free Ain't Enough
6. Candy Car

It was a sad occasion when cellist and Getaway Driver member Steve Pingry succumbed to cancer earlier this year. His loss was evidenced by the outpouring of condolences at his memorial services but perhaps also by this latest six-song release by the Getaway Drivers. Every song is imbued with some kind of loss; some kind of sorrow. 

Black Dog Days was recorded by Bob Manor, Dan Kennedy and Aubrey Obka and produced by the band. The sound is lush and stately, the feel is more subdued. It seems that life plays out in the music of the Getaway Drivers. Each release feels a little more mature, a bit wiser. 

The band downplays things for the most part, invoking a more rootsy vibe. Things even veer toward country music, especially on “A Slow Win.” Here, like most of the album, it’s the sum total of the proceedings that affect the listener. These are some of Bob Manor’s best lyrics, leaving space for interpretation and effect. The band doesn’t seek to reinvent itself or invent new chord progressions either. The lyric and the mood of these songs are closely intertwined and that’s what makes them so engaging and thought-provoking; like a well-written book. 

Guitarist Dan Kennedy continues to impress with everything he touches. He’s added his compositional skills, co-composing “Gold Like Cherries,” a life-affirming song set to a poignant blues/folk accompaniment and featuring a gorgeous acoustic guitar solo.  Sheila Shigley is just as tasteful in supporting these songs with mandolin, fiddle and her crystalline vocals. 

Pingry’s presence is felt throughout, especially on the last two songs. “Free Ain’t Enough,” one of Manor’s four compositions on Black Dog Days, has Pingry dueting with himself on a beautiful middle section, perfectly echoing the song’s unsettling regret and the inescapability of all our past times. The album’s closer, “Candy Car,” was written by Shigley and is simply one of the most beautiful songs you’ll ever hear. 

Maybe it’s because I knew Steve Pingry but both of these songs brought me to tears. Listen for yourself, and let me know if those emotions seem misplaced. I’m guessing that they will strike you in the same way and that your appreciation for this superior collection of artists will manifest, as it has for me. – Rick Tvedt