Griffin House displays his dependable craftsmanship as a folk-rock singer/songwriter on his fifth full-length album, The Learner, without moving beyond his evident mastering of the form to make an original statement. On the lead-off track, "If You Want To," a midtempo profession of romantic attachment, he sings, "If I'm ever steady enough, if I'm ever Tom Petty enough, then I'll write you a song." Of course, writing his significant other a song is exactly what he is doing, but the aspiration to be "Tom Petty enough" is notable. Both as a performer and as a songwriter, House sounds like a lot of other better-known artists, Petty among them (though he rarely rocks as hard as Petty), but he rarely distinguishes himself. In part, that's because he and his musicians settle for familiar arrangements, whether they're evoking the Latin rock of "La Bamba" on "She Likes Girls" or the Western atmospherics of "Ghost Riders in the Sky" on "Never Hide," and in part, it's because his lyric writing tends to be predictable, settling for simple aphorisms expressed in easy rhymes. "She Likes Girls," a man's tale of loving a bi-sexual woman, is an exception, at least in terms of subject matter, but for the most part, House hasn't really worked hard enough to come up with new and interesting things to say or ways to say them. The result is a pleasant-enough album of no particular distinction.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann