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Stepping into the world of Americana, you must have to instantly realise that there always is a short, stocky shadow lingering over you. For some it can be overbearing (Brian Fallon from The Gaslight Anthem certainly seemed to tire of it a few years ago). But the shadow cannot be ignored, and if you did ignore it, or even more foolishly not acknowledge his influence... then more fool you. So let's just say it and be done with it. Sam Marine & County has broad and strong Springsteen influences. This does not detract from an album mining that blue-collar vein in a impassioned and mature style that rewards by standing up to those Boss comparisons Opener and title-track 'Lacktown' grabs you and stomps you into line. It taps into that seemingly endless seam of American small town broken dreams. 'Lacktown' takes you to that endlessly repeating Friday night where the conversations never change and the barmaid never seems to age. It's a bar-room romp of a start, on foundations of a rippling Hammond and wailing harmonica. Marine's ragged, warm voice emboldens the song.
'Simple Life' hangs on a chorus of "time is never enough" which stays in your head long after the song has finished. A more mid-paced song, with those hometown blues laid bare, Marine's voice is more measured and gains a touch of colour with a female harmony on that chorus. Third track 'That's All' opens with lyrics pitching us into the "promised land". As the song unfolds it paints a tale of man on his journey into the city. 'That's All' is a rich track, closer to latter day Soul Asylum or The Hold Steady. With a welcome change of pace, 'Silent Kinda Night' is a smokey, 4am song. Its gentle strum reminiscent of a long ride into the night, watching the headlights blur by. Marine's vocals are almost whispered, and the song has a strength in its lack of bombast. It comes close towards the end to falling into AOR cliche, but manages to stay the right side of the tracks and evolves, like a young Steve Earle, to a mature conclusion. 'I Got You (Little Darlin')' is a wake-up after the twilight of 'Silent Kinda night'. Another strong track, taking you into the sunlight and dancing around "honey". 'I Got You (Little Darlin')' becomes an unexpected confession; our man proclaiming his faults, a stripped-down break allowing you to hear the doubts with clarity. 'I Got You (Little Darlin') then rises up with the Hammond powering you to its end.
Follower 'Sneaking Up On You' is one of the least successful tracks on the album. It has all the right ingredients, but it doesn't seem to mix as well as those before it. It ends with a fizzle and not a bang, perhaps an indicator of its disposable nature. 'Fastest One Here' brings the quality back. Almost tribal drums lead a swaggering, bluesy, dirty track. 'Fastest One Here' has an air of menace, with a loose sax underpinning this and "fuck you" spat out. Marine then re-introduces you to his whiskey-soaked side. 'Say It Out Loud' starts sweetly, then loosens into a expansive track. 'Say It Out Loud' is an standout on the album. Marine paints an eloquent picture, "bloodshot eyes" questioning our man's worth; which choices to make. And as the song grows we hear our man's thoughts and actions. 'Say It Out Loud' stands up alongside fellow journeymen Ryan Adams or Jeff Tweedy. Heading to 'Lacktown''s close, 'I'll Soon Be Gone' blinks in the harsh light and deals with the hangover. Another warm, strong, mid-paced ride of a track. Closer 'Until The Fall' sees a dark scene drawn out; broken dreams lain shattered amongst the trash. Our man running from his mistakes, hiding in alcohol and regret, from "that man". Then, as it is all about to spiral into darkness, the song lifts with a urgent guitar and organ to lead out 'Lacktown' on a high.
Sam Marine & The County's website
Catch him live:
06/01/13 New York at The Studio At Webster Hall
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