Martin's Folly

From Hope

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At times this album sounds somewhat like a grander, cinematic pop version of the Jayhawks, which can be an excellent sound when done right. Thankfully, the group succeeds on the introductory "Everything You Do," a roots pop song in the vein of Tom Petty circa Wildflowers or even Michael Penn. Lead singer and songwriter Chris Gray has a very good vocal and is rounded out by a grander sound at times. The white soul of "You're a Star" comes off like an American version of Coldplay or Ron Sexsmith. It sags somewhat near the conclusion, but overall is passable. Producer Eric "Roscoe" Ambel, who has worked with Steve Earle, seems to have found the band's niche on the roots rock of "I Wish I Was Your Mother," an Ian Hunter track bringing to mind Blue Rodeo. Later on, the simple yet elegant "Just Like That, the Song Was Over" is a perfect country slow-dance effort. Too often, though, the band's softer, mellow approach to tunes doesn't work as well as it could. "Glad to See Me?" is such an example, but the band pulls it off quite well in a way Neil Finn has perfected. If there's one flaw to some of these songs, it might lie in the fact the group doesn't keep the songs as tight as they could be, resulting in a few elongated conclusions. "The Idiot and the Oddity" is a gorgeous lullaby ballad that features a subtle guitar and harmonica. "Yeah, I'm Sorry" makes the band soar as it slowly builds into a murky rock feel with emphasis on the vocals. "Come Close" moves at a snail's pace, but the closeness and sparse sound could be mistaken for Springsteen in his solo folk mode. "Scene Shifter" and its piano instrumental is a fair comparison to the classic "Mr. Bojangles." Another highlight is the whispering shuffle on "A Concept of You," originating from the same format as "Harvest Moon" by Neil Young. The instrumental "Riveria Suite" is bland at best and reeks of being filler material. Overall, it's often an album with more hits and occasional misses.

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