New York City’s trusty R Train spans from Brooklyn to Queens, and, between these destinations, hits the heart of Manhattan. A trip on the venerated subway line shows the expanse of the Big Apple. A trip with the band that shares its namesake takes you to the center of rock n’ roll and beyond. The American modern vintage rock n’ roll band The R Train pulls up today with a steady flow of singles, and a powerful story of perseverance and positivity. All aboard!
The R Train hails from Brooklyn, New York, but has tracks leading down into South Florida. This power trio features longtime friends and rock scene vets: fleet-fingered guitarist/vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Jeffrey Black, deep grooving bassist and harmony vocalist Denny Lee, and, the band’s driving force, powerhouse drummer and vocalist Mike Annese.
The three-piece band creates their own rock n’ roll mojo inspired by classic artists like Black Sabbath, Grand Funk Railroad, Tom Petty, Cream, Rush and the Beatles. In addition, the band has a Queen-like sense of adventurousness, writing diverse songs with a band identity cohesiveness. The R Train tunes feature pounding drums, thick fuzz-dipped guitars, and grinding basslines. The band exudes power, precision, and a groove that evokes the halcyon era of the arena rock days, but with a modern vigor that makes it feel fresh again. The R Train’s sound is so immediately infectious that music executive producers Brud Van Cott and Albert Trenchie took an instant interest in the band, and remain staunch behind-the-scenes supporters.
Adding to the band’s mystique is that select tracks were mastered at Battery Studios, also known as the legendary “Record Plant” at 321 44th St. “The Plant,” as it is known today, was home to some of the greatest recordings of all time, including sessions with the likes of John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Aerosmith, Kiss, and countless other greats. Additional tracks were mastered at Masterdisk NYC by the legendary rock master Scott Hull (Bruce Springsteen, Lou Reed, and Bob Dylan).
The band’s backstory begins during a transformative moment in 2017. Mike is a Deputy Fire Chief down in South Florida and he has been on the job for 23 years. He’s also an in-demand motivational speaker and author. During one of his talks, an audience member came up to him and asked him a profound question. “The guy said to me, ‘You mentioned playing music in the book. How come you stopped doing it?,’” Mike recalls. He had been playing drums since the age of nine, performed in bands in Boston & South Florida, and recorded in studios like Master Sound Astoria in Queens & Criteria Studios in Miami. At the time of the speaking engagement, he was musically inactive. Mike continues: “Talking to that guy made me realize I let go of something I loved—music was my true passion. As soon as the plane touched down, I reached out to Jeff, and said we need to start a band.”
Mike and Jeff have co-written all of The R Train’s songs. The two played in bands in the 1990s, and Jeff has gone on to be an established Brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalist and songwriter who has performed on a multitude of instruments for a variety of East Coast cover and tribute bands. Most recently, Jeff has spent years portraying Paul McCartney in the international Beatles tribute band “Let It Be." He is ambidextrous - plays bass left-handed and guitar right-handed. In addition, Jeff has been a sideman to a large number of rock icons, including Billy Joel, Chuck Berry, and Dion.
Rounding out the power trio is bassist Denny Lee. Denny is a life-long musician and descendant of a prodigious multi-generational musical family. He has performed music professionally since childhood, and he has had the good fortune to share the stage with many talented and notable players in the music world throughout his career.
“When Denny came into the band, we all fell in love with the music,” Mike says. “We had a kickass band, and we had the fire and energy to make music. It feels like we are 25, again.”
The first fateful day of mastering, the guys were taking the R train from Bay Ridge Brooklyn to Manhattan, pinching themselves because they were so excited about the opportunity. They decided to commemorate that day by naming the band The R Train.
The R Train is releasing a catalog of richly diverse songs. Select highlights include “Timeline,” “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” “Take A Ride,” and “Flip-Out Zone.” The track “Timeline” takes the listener on a rocking existentialist journey. The song is tightly-orchestrated with wise lyrics, melodic lead guitars, and dynamic drums and bass that keep things psychedelic, but also propulsive and purposeful. The guys turn in a heavy version of the classic “Dear Mr. Fantasy” with punchy drums, majestic organ, and jaw-dropping wah-drenched blues-guitar solos. Their approach really lives up to the phrase “power ballad.”
The revved-up shuffle of “Take A Ride” oozes the feel-good vibes of rock’s heyday when the music was an escape. It’s almost the band’s anthem, imploring you to jump on the party train. “Flip-Out Zone” roams the land of the Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin when mammoth blues-based riffs and thoughtful lyrics were a panacea for life’s ailments. The song sends a stirring message to seize the day and be the person you aspire to be.
When not rocking, the trio of men seek to give back. Mike gives back to the fire service through his support of the National Fallen FireFighters Foundation. Jeff is a vegetarian and a devoted supporter of the Humane Society of America. Denny is active with National Crisis Response Canines, a platform that offers trauma survivors the companionship and comfort of specially-trained and certified Crisis Response Canines.
It is the perfect time for The R Train’s newly minted classic rock. A new crop of musicians and fans are discovering the joys of vintage riff-driven rock played with a modern flair. The R Train is in good company alongside Rival Sons, Dirty Honey, and Greta Van Fleet. In closing, Mike lays down the band’s manifesto: “The R Train’s goal is to inspire everyone to get up out of their seats, forget about the everyday stresses of the world, rock your heart out, and dance to the groove of the music.”