Deeply descriptive in his songwriting, Andy Germak's thoughtful verse is at once highly reflective everyday ruminations while occasionally achieving a distinct form of 21st century protest music. Employing highly appropriate string arrangements, the brooding opener "Kosovo" reveals Germak as the sort of timely songwriter who can write with a lot of heart and intelligence, yet stay clear of self-congratulatory pretentiousness. Similarly, "American Dream Blown to Pieces" addresses the horrors of school shootings with firm resolve, yet remaining free of finger pointing. Though stripped-down tracks, with only Germak and his breathy rasp and acoustic guitar, dominate the album, he turns up the energy level with a tightly rocking band on tracks like "Christmas in New Amsterdam" and "Covergirl," which recalls the Gin Blossoms at their peak. Bearing that in mind, tracks like "Fireworks Over Ithaca," with simple guitar, harmonica, piano, and gorgeous strings, give Color Through the Smoke mass appeal, as the tracks are folky enough for roots rockers and polished enough for the contemporary folk crowd. Overall, Germak has definite breakout potential, and an album delivered with this kind of aching honesty is an excellent first step to achieving those means.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Fink