Despite the critical acclaim that 2013's Natural Born Days garnered, singer/songwriter, guitarist, and Subdudes' frontman Tommy Malone surrounds himself with an entirely new cast of players on his follow-up, Poor Boy. His studio band, however, comprises old friends and collaborators. Ray Ganucheau, who engineered and played bass on his first solo offering, 2001's Soul Heavy, is this set's bassist and co-producer. Drummer Russ Broussard played in Malone's Continental Drifters band, and his keyboard player Sam Brady is a member of Malone's touring group. Malone wrote or co-wrote everything here save for the closer, an excellent, spacey, neo-psych cover of Stevie Wonder's "Big Brother" that sounds like Malone spent a lot of time listening to John Lennon's Imagine album before cutting it. Given that his players are so familiar it's easy to get his songs across -- no matter what genre he happens to be writing in. "Pretty Pearls" is Malone's take on Louisiana country, with his slide guitar playing the part of a pedal steel atop a strummed acoustic and harmonica as Brady strolls along on an upright piano. He mixes that vibe with jangling country rock on "We Both Lose." "Time to Move On" uses backstreet blues with a '70s-era Rolling Stones vibe, while "Mineral Girl" does its own organic take on NOLA R&B. The set's hinge-piece is "Bumblebee," a nocturnal rocker with a Rhodes piano and a beguiling, flamenco-styled 12-string guitar rolling through its sultry mix. The backporch Americana on "Crazy Little Johnny" is a nice touch that recalls the Subdudes at their best, while Malone's own brand of souled-out NOLA swamp rock gets the nod in "Talk to Me." While the styles of these tunes shift and change, they are all strained through the instantly recognizable grain in his voice and harmony singing. Everything here feels grown from the soil and has its own particularly greasy groove at heart. Poor Boy is not only consistent, but finely wrought in terms of its performances, recording quality, and production.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek