Money's tight. Times are tough. But take heart - there's an American band built for these uncertain times.

Since The Alternate Routes released their debut album Good and Reckless and True two years ago, hailed by Performing Songwriter as having "an unfailing melodic and soulful touch," many miles have rolled under their van's wheels and many stage’s have witnessed their songs. They've morphed into a touring beast with a sturdy backbone of fan support and an impressive repertoire of crowd-pleasing songs.

"In our music we acknowledge the hardship that's out there," says singer/songwriter/guitarist Tim Warren. " But we do our best to make people forget about it for a while and give them a great show."

Their sound - a hybrid vibe of Rock n' Roll grit and ghostly, meaningful balladry-provides the kind of wide-ranging sonic experience that leaves crowds feeling they got more than they bargained for. "Every night we push ourselves to take our show to a new level," says guitarist Eric Donnelly." That's what keeps us going, knowing that the next thing is gonna be the great thing. The next album is what we're fighting for, the next big gig. That's the addiction part of what we do."

It's also, in the bands own words, "a sucker's dream."

Loosely based around a handful of themes - seeing light at the end of tunnel, powering through hardship, holding onto hope in the face of long odds-A Sucker's Dream, their new sophomore release, builds on the diverse, melodic compositional work of the band's debut by adding decibels, power, vision and a collaborative studio effort. Produced and mixed by Jay Joyce (Tim Finn, Patty Griffin, John Hiatt, Derek Trucks), the Nashville guru behind the band's first album, the recording turns The Alternate Routes from a band with great potential to a band that has clearly delivered on its potential. "We all challenged ourselves," says Donnelly. " Jay got us in the room playing together, which we all were really into because we felt we had something to prove."

Explanatory titles like "Just a Dream," "The Future's Nothing New" and "Never Gonna Be Rich" prove that The Alternate Routes - which also includes members Chip Johnson (bass) and Mike Sembos (guitar) - could sing about the harsh realities of life without actually giving in to them. They could confront hard times without ever losing hope, a train of thought central to the band's approach. "We sat back and took a look at the themes on the album," says Warren, "and we discovered there was a lot of hope and a lot of adversity, which is basically the combination of things we've been dealing with since the last album."

"Desdemona, you're not dead yet and it's not wrong, if you want everything in life under the sun," sings Warren with a little help from acclaimed sing-songwriter Patty Griffin, who brings a women's touch to the decidedly acoustic track.


Further lyrical exploration of these tunes, written mainly by Warren, Donnelly and Johnson, turns up some enlightened gems. "The Future's Nothing New," the record's evocative first single with a subtle Latin flair, comes from the viewpoint of a fortuneteller. "Never Gonna Be Rich" tells about the time the band landed in an old Oregon mining town. The hope that remains in a town searching for gold that has clearly gone years without any discovery had great meaning for a young band in search of its own success.

The rollicking, REM-styled "A Sucker's Dream" finds the band wondering how they ended up "starving on a sucker's dream." "All That I See" is a chiming reaffirmation of love from a guy who's constantly on the road. "If all we can find is a life we can't hide from, then all that I need is you."

Since forming over seven years ago at Fairfield University in Connecticut, the band has hung on tightly to their music and their ideals, playing wherever they can, shuttling from temporary homesteads in Bridgeport, Boston, New York and back again, logging trucker's miles between Colorado and Connecticut in recent years hoping to build an audience that mirrors the one they've created in the Northeast. For the longest time they held on to menial day jobs to support their rock 'n' roll habit. One day broke, broken, and down to their last buck, they made enough money gambling to pay for the pressing of an early EP.

Today, Warren, Donnelly, Johnson and Sembos believe even more deeply in what they do. "We're not an overnight success story by any stretch," laughs Warren. "We take it one city at a time, one fan at a time. It's not glamorous, but we pride ourselves on working hard and making life on the road a viable reality. We've seen what's out there in the live music circuit and we continue the journey based on the fact that we believe we have something unique and musical to offer."

In a few years of touring the band has developed a live experience that is second to none, and regardless of whether they're playing raucous, sold out shows in New York or quiet rooms in the boondocks, this band gets after it night after night. They've always favored playing over not playing, getting in front of people over taking the night off. With tunes like these, The Alternate Routes sure will be hard to ignore.