Last Train to Juarez’s debut album blurs the lines of country music

A road, the new album from local country band Last Train to Juarez, features 10 tracks of what some might call “outlaw” country. But vocalist and guitarist Dejan Knezevic doesn’t really feel comfortable with the nickname.

“Our music blurs the lines a bit and doesn’t fit neatly into a specific country genre. I’ve heard people call us ‘outlaws, red dirt, biker country and rock or metal country’. At the end of the day, what’s most important to me as an artist is writing and creating music that’s pure, honest, and authentic – music that comes from the heart and soul,” says Knezevic.

Last Train to Juarez will celebrate the release of their full-length debut album (which was recorded at Villain Recording with Knezevic’s Pelvic Meatloaf bandmate Byron Filson playing the buttons) by playing a release party this Friday, March 18 at The Roosters Country at Mesa.

The band is really the brainchild of vocalist/guitarist Dejan Knezevic (also local metal stalwarts Pelvic Meatloaf) who founded the band in 2018. In four short years, Knezevic and his bandmates began to carve out a strong local following and aim to also begin to spread their wings at the regional level.

There’s a deeply personal nature to Knezevic’s songs that will captivate A road listeners and live audiences. A song like “This Letter,” for example, tells the story of an event in Knezevic’s own life that will resonate with anyone who has gone through a troubling addiction or had to watch a loved one do it. It’s clear that Knezevic is comfortable baring his soul for his art.

“I woke up one day and there was a letter next to me. This song is this paraphrased letter. So these words in the song are actually [Knezevic’s wife’s] words for me in this letter. That’s why I had a hard time deciding if I should post it, but I did with his blessing. She said, ‘Go ahead, do it. Because, you know, some people can relate to it. And you know, it’s an inspirational song at the end of the day because it ends with, “I know I’m going to make a change,” Knezevic says.

“Ghosts” and “Bloody Writing” are two other notable tracks on A road. The first tells the story of two of Knezevic’s friends who lost their lives, and “Bloody Writing” references graffiti the songwriter saw while traveling in Bosnia.

“I spent time in Bosnia and came across some graffiti in a town called Mossad. Mossad was a heavily segregated city during the 90s war where the main fighting took place between Muslims and Croats in this city. But I came across some graffiti under a bridge. It was truly beautiful – a huge bleeding rose. The rose petals were bleeding blood, and above it was written “The war is not over”. Well, it was sort of a harbinger of what was to come. I don’t think the war is over in Bosnia. They just hit the pause button and that’s what inspired the song,” says Knezevic.

Last Train To Juarez had something of a revolving door of musicians in its early years, but Knezevic feels the current lineup is finally one he can fully build. Drummer Brian Teille is also a veteran of the city’s hard rock scene and has become Knezevic’s right-hand man when it comes to getting the band ready for gigs. Rounding out the line-up are Pedal Steel guitarist Mark Tomeo, bassist Jonathan Candler and lead guitarist Stephen Dietrich. Both Tomeo and Dietrich are in their 60s and Candler is blind, so the heavy lifting associated with being in an active country band falls squarely on Teille and Knezevic.

“So it’s Dejan and I, usually, and we lug all the equipment around and set everything up. Then after that, we take everything apart, put the sound system and all the cables away. It’s a production every time we play, but it’s worth it. We enjoy it. We have fun doing it and neither of us really have a problem with carrying equipment other than our knees and backs (laughs),” says Size.

Last train to Juarez CD release party. 8 p.m. on Friday March 18, Land of the Roosters, 3731 East Main Street, Mesa. There is no entrance fee and CDs will be available.

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