Blue Merle

Burning in the Sun

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Blue Merle's debut takes a couple listens to sink in, but even then, it just misses sinking in deep enough. The beautiful, earthy but driven sonic landscape of Burning in the Sun instantly lets the listener know this is something unique, even as familiar acts like Counting Crows, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and David Gray are coming to mind. Blue Merle share a lot with these poignant popsters -- wistful attitude, soft rock temperament, and that balance of weary and hopeful emotions -- but what separates them is their more mature, more rustic musicianship and their frontman, Luke Reynolds. As a lyricist, he relies on shards of thoughts, fuzzy memories, and impressionistic bits of prose that don't paint a clear picture. Combine this with the delivery of an unrestrained, fancy-free Adam Duritz and an exquisitely talented band -- an acoustic, front-porch version of Steely Dan -- and it sounds like a winner. The only problem is, Blue Merle are so impassioned and so impressionistic that Burning in the Sun feels like it's slipping through the listener's fingers at times. That doesn't mean it's a bad album, but there's a more solid, sober, and satisfying album somewhere underneath all this ardor. Tracks like "Places" and "Every Ship Must Sail Away" have their feet firmly planted on the ground, but elsewhere, things get dreamy to the point of "mood music" that works perfectly when you're feeling rather rainy-day, but is annoying when you aren't. Blue Merle sound spirited away by this unique sound they've created, and it makes one think that all the loose ends will be addressed on their next record. Here, they're a bit too in love with their filigree, but it's a heartfelt, genuine sound worth any acoustic rock fan's attention.

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