Mark Selby

Dirt

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    8
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AllMusic Review by

Broadening his sound and deepening his lyrics, Selby moves beyond the bluesy orientation of his first album with this strong sophomore effort. Several tracks reflect the influence of assorted other artists, but rather than being derivative, these performances are nods of appreciation from an artist whose own sound is already establishing itself. More than most of his peers, Selby gives a good amount of space to his playing; "Back Door to My Heart" is written along a Hendrix harmonic concept, with a juicy solo showing that Selby is no stranger to slide guitar. The soul of his art, however, is his writing, which addresses issues of everyday life with a rare vernacular eloquence. His spoken introduction to "Easier to Lie" uses plain language to set up a story of a relationship stripped to its stark essentials; it also carries the narrative into a melody on the last line of the verse that climbs painfully and movingly toward the chorus. Elsewhere, as on the title cut, Selby turns a deft phrase, going from an evocation of the mythic American ties to both dirt and sky -- a WPA mural in sound -- to a fatalistic reminder that "I'm gonna be dirt someday." From intimate confession to heroic speculation, Selby covers a lot of bases on Dirt, and demands greater recognition in the front ranks of Nashville singer/songwriters.

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