Milton Mapes’s songwriter Greg Vanderpool seems to have a problem with twos. “Down By You,” the second track on the Mapes’ debut The State Line, was the weakest link on an otherwise great album. Recently the band released their sophomore set, Westernaire. Cue the slight sounds of treading water.
The band has traded in most of its dusky back porch ambiance for blue-collared barroom stomp. On its own, this isn’t a bad thing – “Some to Reap” and “Maybe You’re Here, Maybe You’re Not” still prove that Vanderpool knows his way around a good Texan rock song. They’re as good as anything on their first album.
“The Only Sound that Matters” manages to scare up some scattered quiet ghosts. One song later, “A Thousand Songs About California” surfaces as a complete rewrite of Counting Crows’ “A Long December.” It’s by far the album’s most viable track, but it still doesn’t live up to the sheer brilliance of The State Line’s “The Elusive Goldmine.”
The remainder of the album feeds off the residual energy of the first half (“Everyone Around”) or cops rhythms and melodies from the band’s first disc (“Palo Duro”). If I hadn’t been exposed to The State Line so recently I think I would be much more impressed with Westernaire as a whole. It’s much better than most alt. country out there these days, but I’d be remiss in my duties if I didn’t tell you that you’d be spending your money more wisely on the Milton Mapes’s debut.
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