Mando Saenz

Watertown

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    7
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AllMusic Review by

It's difficult to stand out in the music business, and this is even truer if a performer is in a popular field like alternative country. It might be easy enough for the new kid on the block to cover the standard bases -- a voice that cracks, a steel guitar, and a handful of story-songs -- but difficult to make it sound fresh. Mando Saenz's Watertown is a solid album, and alternative country fans will enjoy the straightforward production and rootsy arrangements. Saenz is also a good singer and careful songwriter. On the title cut, he subtly builds an interior monologue as the narrator recalls his own past. "There's a song that I heard on the radio today that took me back ...," he sings, but the memories are more like fleeting impressions, capturing a mood more than a time and place. Saenz also has a good feel for ballads like "Noble Kings." All of this is solid enough, but a certain sameness creeps in as Watertown moves forward. Yes, Saenz's lyrics are filled with careful observations, but the individual songs -- melody and structure wise -- don't always stand out, and the heartfelt vocals begin to sound as stylized as mainstream country after a while (teaching one's voice to crack and whine, after all, isn't something Saenz picked up on the farm). Still, Watertown is a worthwhile effort that will please the alternative country crowd and anyone who enjoys a good story.

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