Dave Gleason's Wasted Days

Midnight, California

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The Byrds. Tom Petty. Dwight Yoakam. Robbie Fulks. It is in this lineage that Dave Gleason's Wasted Days lives and breaths. On their excellent though sorely overlooked 2004 release Midnight, California, the Oakland-based group carries a torch for '60s- and '70s-style outlaw country while infusing it with the spectral, chiming guitars of psychedelic rock and a hazy, coked-out California cowboy vibe. The time-tested themes of country music, mainly drinking and heartbreak, inform the bulk of the lyrical content, and the production and playing are unabashedly slick and unfettered by irony. The title track is an ode to the state itself, and to the broken-down bittersweet after-hours life to be found in the neon-lit honky tonks of the outlying counties. "Some New Someone" is a classic lost-my-girl sob story fueled by alcohol and some wonderful pedal-steel playing. And while it's hard to believe Tom Petty didn't write songs such as "Inspiration" and "Hardest Part," saying so is more a tribute to Gleason's pop songcraft than to his skill as a ripoff artist. But the highlight of the album, strangely, might be a three-minute mid-album instrumental called "The Winner" that sounds like something Brian Wilson might have written for the Flying Burrito Brothers. Don't be a surprised if one day Midnight, California is considered a country-rock classic.

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