Dumptruck: Positively Dumptruck (1986)

I know, I keep returning to those jangly mid-80s college radio albums, but, hey, it was a formative period in my life, what can I say.

So, yeah, another one for folks who love early R.E.M. and the dB's and the Connells and Winter Hours and so on. Dumptruck was primarily Seth Tiven and Kirk Swan (and briefly Kevin Salem, who went on to a fruitful solo career), though over the years they largely became a platform for Tiven's solo material (which he's also released under his own name). They hailed from Boston, but had that Byrdsy southern jangle. Positively Dumptruck, their second album, dropped some of the darker (almost goth-like) elements of the (mostly excellent) debut in favor of a more country-tinged Americana, wedded to some great hooks and haunting melodies.

Lead-off track "Back Where I Belong" is a perfect introduction to the band, a killer riff, dueling guitars and the sort of chorus that's stuck with me ever since I first heard it more than 30 years ago. From there the band rotates among similarly upbeat pop numbers, like the nearly as great "Secrets," "Alone," and the shades-of-Don't-Fear-The-Reaper-esque "Walk Into Mirrors," and gentle ballads like the moody "7 Steps" and the interwoven guitars of "Autumn Light." There's a lot of minor-key melancholy lingering in many of the tracks, but it's overall an infectious, easy listen and a pretty great example of the period's college radio ethos.  

Their 1987 follow-up, For The Country, was every bit as good, but after that they were plagued by break-ups and record-label disputes; they returned with several more decent albums which were a little more ragged and, without Swan or Salem, lacked some of the earlier albums' variety and polish but still offered some rootsy charm.

Here's the video for "Back Where I Belong":
...and the video for "Secrets":