Perhaps June Star frontman Andrew Grimm should get together with Willy Vlautin of Richmond Fontaine and form a support group called "Alt-Country Singer/Songwriters Who Sound a Lot Like Jay Farrar Without Really Trying." Like Vlautin, Grimm's curse (if that's the right word) is that his voice bears more than a passing resemblance to that of the former leader of Uncle Tupelo and Son Volt, which is compounded by the fact that the slow, thoughtful drift of many of the songs on June Star's third album, Sugarbird, gives them a sound and feel not unlike much of the best material on Trace. But like Richmond Fontaine's work, if you look past the surfaces on Sugarbird, it becomes clear that Andrew Grimm is a songwriter with a style very much his own. Significantly more direct and less oblique than Farrar, Grimm's lyrics deal with the nuances of life along the margins in his hometown of Baltimore, from playing a gig when even your own dad heckles you ("Baltimore") to the desperate need to blow town before love and geography can crush you ("Mexico"). Grimm's stories are smart, concise, and effective, and his guitar (coupled with multi-instrumentalist Tim Bracken, who is the only other player on most of these tunes) conveys both the space and the isolation of the big, decaying city with surprising skill. Sugarbird is a strong and compelling album from a band that certainly deserves a higher profile on the current alt-country scene, and hopefully work of this caliber will not be overlooked.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming