Derek Thomas & Skyline Drive is the moniker for song-smith, Derek Thomas, an established independent artist based out of Topanga, CA.
Thomas's past work has garnered worldwide press varying from local blogs to 4 star reviews in Rolling Stone. Over the years he has played in various projects ranging from psychedelic rock to singer songwriter.
Formerly a member of the cultish CA psych band, 60 Watt Kid his new project displays a depth and understanding of Folk, Alt. Country and Americana music. Beyond the Trestles, the sophomore album finds Thomas' combining California country cowboy folk-numbers with lush groove heavy soul rock anthems and even pays homage to such songwriters as Jackson Browne and Cat Stevens. Beyond the Trestles was recorded and mixed by both Malcolm Burn (Emmylou Harris, Bob Dylan) and multi-talented Chris Wonzer and will be released in late August on Soul Water Records.
Thomas' thoughtful, evocative lyrics and smoky vocals are the underlying glue connecting the sparse sincere acoustic numbers, intricately produced soul ballads and supercharged rebel rockers. Los Angeles based singer-songwriter Leslie Stevens wonderfully sweet voice which graced Thomas's Topanga Ranch Motel release is again a presence on his latest release and is featured in the crooning duet "Don't Come Easy."
When performing both live and in the studio the band making up Skyline Drive consists of a handful of rotating talented players including Erik Kristiansen (Ryan Adams) pedal steel; John Schreffler (Shooter Jennings) pedal steel, harmony vocals; Carl Byron (Ann McCue, Amilia White) piano, accordion, harmony vocals; Ted Russell Kamp (Shooter Jennings) bass guitar, harmonies; Jamie Douglas (Shooter Jennings) drums; Greg Cahill guitar, harmonies; Kellii Scott (Failure), drums; Randy Mitchell, guitar; Paul Ill, bass guitar; Gregory Boaz-bass; Steve Mugalian-drums, Dave Alvin and Jamie Drake-harmonies. The end result is music that is brimming with soul supporting the story telling of Derek Thomas.
Listening to Skyline Drive one would likely be surprised to find out that surfing and the ocean are a huge part of Thomas’s life. So what helped shape this Southern California surfer kid into such a retrospective and insightful songwriter. "Much of my musical influences came from my mom’s boyfriends when I was very young. I never met my blood father and at the age of four my mother took me on a rambling cross-country trip with her boyfriend at the time, a cowboy with an old Cadillac. The soundtrack playing in the vehicle was composed mainly of songwriters like Gram Parsons, Townes Van Zandt, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. As I grew up I realized that trip had a really strong impact on me however how strong I didn’t really realize for many years,” Thomas said.
When his mother finally did re-marry and he listened to all his stepfather’s vinyl album collection, soaking up such California sound artists as Neil Young, Jackson Browne, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Leo Keottke; the southern rock of the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd; A new friend and Ventura recording studio owner JP Hesser turned him on to the grooves of J.J Cale , Jerry Jeff Walker, Bobby Charles. Modern styling’s of such artist as Ryan Adams, Ray La Montagne and Michael Kiwanuka can be heard in his recordings as well.
Skyline Drive’s latest album reflects Thomas’ wide-ranging musical influence “I wanted to really flush a few of the songs out and take them to their potential,” Thomas says of his sometimes minimalist approach. I have so many influences and songwriting is always the main thing that I am interested in. “I’m a big fan of sparse and open songs where there is little to no band or production. I think the true soul and intention of the song has a way of getting captured when it’s just the song and its writer. At the same time I wrote a few with the intention of pushing lots of energy and groove from the band into them. To feel the power and sonic-ness that comes from that is something I was missing with my last release. Southern Rock has so much soul and beauty - I wanted to tap into that while keeping the more subtle moments distinguishable too”.
01. Honey Whiskey
02. Don't Come Easy
03. Roll On
04. Midnight Lady
05. Face Me Now
07. God Isn't Watching
08. Beyond My Mind
09. Rubber Bullets
10. Broken Angel
11. Ring Them Bells
12. No Passing Phase
13. River Song
You can do yourselves a huge favour a purchase this great album from any one the following places: