Ex-Del Amitri frontman Justin Currie dials back the jangle pop on his third solo outing, the dusty, driving, and soulful Lower Reaches. Composed in the Hebrides and recorded in Austin, Texas with the help of producer Mike McCarthy (the Hold Steady, Patty Griffin, Spoon), Currie marries the misty melancholia of his homeland and the red rock vistas of the southwest with ease, resulting in a collection of road-ready, Scots-spun Americana that feels both loose and lived in. As wry and erudite as ever, Currie can turn a phrase with the best of them, and Lower Reaches has some real dark gems like "I feel my body going south, so I take the scenery in," from the bucolic single "Bend to My Will," and "Let me show you how to write a tune/the first note should mean the world to you," from the equally pastoral "Every Song's the Same," but witty, raw, prosaic, and altogether well-written, often bleak observations about life and death and all of the petty things in-between have been his calling card since the '80s, so it should come as no surprise that he can still deal them out without the slightest twitch of the wrist. Musically, Lower Reaches spends the majority of its time in the lower gears, opting for midtempo balladry and contemplative fingerpicking over the smooth, yet propulsive folk-pop that made Currie-penned Del Amitri staples like "Roll On" and "Hatful of Rain" so immediate and engaging, but at a refined ten songs, it never drags the listener under, even as it's stealthily immersing them in darkness.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger