Jason Whitton

Thriftstore Cowboy

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Although his promo material tries to create a comparison to modern country rockers like Keith Urban and Nickel Creek, newcomer Jason Whitton harkens back more to the laid-back L.A. country vibe of the '70s on his likeable and simply produced debut. On the graceful, rolling folk-flavored "Jessica Drive," in fact, his warm voice sounds a lot like Timothy B. Schmit of the Eagles. This vibe continues on the spare meditation "Fingernail Moon," which features actor Dermot Mulroney's cello harmony adding a poignant classical vibe. Even if the overall atmosphere is more retro and traditional country (even Americana) than today's slick pop variety, Whitton shows his potential for colorful storytelling on more upbeat rockers like "Lucy (Hungry Heart Café)" -- about a local waitress with Hollywood dreams. No doubt there are parallels to Whitton's own life in this tune, as the Texas-born singer now lives in L.A. One advantage Whitton will have over other up-and-coming country singers is his songwriting, which is engaging throughout. Still, he gets to show off a little more of his vocal range on a playful closing cover of Bill Withers' "Use Me."

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