June Star


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On their sophomore release, Safe House Records' June Star offers a satisfying blend of atmospheric twang, hard-driving humbucker folk, and "Wayfaring Stranger" bluegrass. Mixing the overdriven, alt-country sounds of Son Volt with the heady, metaphorical lyricism of Fables-era R.E.M., Telegraph is musically and lyrically meaty. Polished acoustic guitar, banjo (Tim Johnson), mandolin (Tom Scanlan), and overdriven pedal steel figure prominently on most tunes, giving them a rich sonic texture. The album's palette is diverse as well. Expect heavy alt-country tunes, including the album's growling opener, "Thrown," and closing title track, "Telegraph," the most fully realized example of the band's sound. There also are more hushed country ballads and jaunts, including "Wedding Girl" and "Follow Me," which have an old-timey authenticity without being dated and contrite. Lead vocalist Andrew Grimm -- who also plays guitar, harmonica, and banjo -- pens the band's tunes. Lyrically dark, abstract, and sparse, they largely focus on the desolation of small-town life, the journey from innocence to experience, and the disillusioning power of truth. Grimm recasts these common themes more effectively in some songs than others. "New Jordon" is the standout. Grimm isn't beyond humor, though, as in the whimsical "If I": "By the time I try/You'll say I forgot." Grimm's limited vocal range and somewhat affected delivery do take some warming up to. That aside, Telegraph is a rock-solid release from a promising band.

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