Charlie Mars

Charlie Mars

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An album that starts off as much like Bruce Springsteen as it does Welsh group Stereophonics, Charlie Mars likes to mix a bit of Southern rock with polished, radio-friendly pop/rock. "Gather the Horses" is such an example as the harmonies soar in the vein of the Verve. A rather melodic, orchestral conclusion doesn't diminish the overall result. "Simple Things" keeps the momentum going as Mars has that aura surrounding his voice that Bono often does when executing a ballad. "Close to Home" separates itself with more of a roots pop tune resembling Counting Crows, Matchbox Twenty, or Train. The somber pop melodies are apparent on the majestic "White Out," an experiment between the arrangements of Coldplay and the dreamy ethereal touches of Radiohead. This anthem-like milieu continues on the lush and slow-building "When the Sun Goes Down." When the singer goes in different directions, he's more than able to carry the songs effortlessly, particularly on the infectious "Try So Hard," with help from guitarist and producer Rick Beato. The only song that doesn't quite live up to expectations is the mid-tempo "One Horse Town," which sounds like Steve Earle if he bowed down to Music Row. One sleeper has to be the singer/songwriter style of "Bay Springs Road" and "How Could You," the latter a tune yearning to be covered by Jason Mraz, perhaps. A fine debut by a finer musician with enough chops to seal this deal.

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