Monte Warden

Here I Am

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Monte Warden's second album for the Austin, Texas-based Watermelon label, Here I Am is a fine example of the kind of country/roots-rock hybrid for which the label's home city is so well known. Although there are few surprises, the musicianship is top-notch with that incredibly tight, but relaxed, feel that only the most experienced pros can pull off. All of the album's ten tracks were written or co-written by Warden and, as the cover photo of Warden clutching a Rickenbacker 360 would indicate, are closer to the pop side of the roots-rock fence. In fact, much of the music here would not seem out of place on Rockpile's Seconds of Pleasure, or any of that band's members' (particularly Dave Edmunds) rootsier solo efforts. In addition, there are echoes of other purveyors of pure pop like Marshall Crenshaw and T-Bone Burnett (and, on the beautiful "Do You Remember," Warren Zevon). Warden's voice, while not particularly distinctive, has a pleasant, unaffected quality and a surprisingly clear upper-register tone that sometimes recalls Roy Orbison. Unfortunately, Warden never seems particularly involved emotionally in the music. Although some songs are almost saved by the snappy lead guitar work of David Murray, and it's obvious that Warden is a very capable artist, the album as a whole comes off more as an exercise in proficiency, or a songwriting demo, than as a fully realized work.

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