"The key isn't so much to have your audience saying, 'I never thought of that.' It's to have them saying, 'I never thought if it that way.'" - Kasey Anderson
How very, very sad. 'Americana' seems to signify a 'no-nonsense' attitude about music: say what you mean, mean what you say, respect cliché (s'just some Frenchie word anyway), sing pretty, sing true, lift you up when you're blue. In other words, kiss your audience's ass because without them you're nuthin'. If this is the American sensibility, well then I guess we're a bunch of doughy mushheads after all.
Of course this isn't true. So I ask: do we really need another Toby Keith singing the same old song with tiny modifications here and there so somebody in a bar somewhere who gets hit with it at just the right moment can go: 'wow, I've never thought of it that way before!'? I'd say absolutely not. I can submit to the fact that Kasey Anderson knows his way around a pretty, forlorn melody. His restrained, rough-hewn singing voice shows that he's sincere about what he's doing. But even still his music suggests more of an audience that is already there instead of one that he might cross over to. I'm guessing most people who show up on TMT aren't looking for pandering albums like this. It's accomplished enough, but its lyrics (what could've been Dead Roses' saving grace for this reviewer) are some of the most corny, yawningly clichéd musings I've ever come across as a critic. You need look no further than the song titles to see what I mean.
Maybe Kasey will get lucky and score a Ford Truck commercial. Maybe Miller Genuine Draft will find some fake looking Coyote Ugly-type sexpots to stand next to him as he strums alongside a gloriously flowing beer tap. There is virtue to wanting to tell stories and to simplify things in this increasingly convoluted musical climate (see: Jason Molina, Will Oldham, Edith Frost, or M. Ward for some infinitely more worthy modern examples of this approach). I just don't think one should make too much effort to that end. I said Anderson is genuine, and I believe him to be, but I don't see why he deserves any special attention. Those of you reading this that are up for some good 'ol heart-warming country music with some soul, look no further than the classics. In a medium as restrictive and reductive as Americana (though Springsteen manages to try different things), new entries are just sopping off the classics. Stay away from this album unless you've got a birthday friend who likes country music that feels decidedly familiar, like an old pair of shoes, at the foot of that rusty 'ol bed.
1. This Old Town
2. Hard On Me
3. Weary Heart
4. Hold on Caroline
5. 5th Avenue Queen
6. What's A Man To Do?
7. Raining in Hattiesburg
8. Dead Roses (and Blood Red Wine)
9. The Borderline