Austin Collins & the Rainbirds | Wrong Control (Eight Dollar Music)

Austin Collins & the Rainbirds have created a very likeable record, one that offers a heartfelt, earnest rootsiness.

Hey look, it’s an alt. country record! And you know what that means – early Son Volt is an obvious touchstone. “Head Down” strongly recalls a clearer voiced, less obtuse (albeit less poetic) Jay Farrar, while “Care” dresses up Trace roots howl with a resonant Tom Petty 12 string chime. The title track, along with much of the rest of Wrong Control, is similarly indebted to the harder edged fringes of the genre – think of Steve Earle’s deeply ingrained grizzled-ness.

That’s not to say this is boring, blatant aping. It’s clear that the record’s influence is pure, not cynical rip-off. And there is other stuff going on. “Conventional Lust” veers into a more pop direction, riding handclaps and Collins’ easy, world weary drawl to a result that sounds like John Mellencamp sans the cornpone populism.“Just the Same” churns and growls the album to life, Ryan Adams cross-bred with grungy, grinding guitars straight out of a mid ’90s Smashing Pumpkins scorcher. The richly textured organ in “Forever Avenue” and the bah-bah-bah-bahs, processed vocals, and stomping power pop undercurrents on “Island” adds welcome shading to a disc that would’ve otherwise been far too one note.

As the album winds down, the closing-time pathos ramps up. “Worn” exudes a sense of bravery; it adeptly adds affecting piano and harmony laden weariness to a steady rhythm and angular guitar solos. The aptly named “Centerpiece” is a stunning piano and acoustic guitar led ballad; its shuffling resignation hits straight to the heart, the subtly placed steel guitar cries out, cutting through stoic exteriors with the sharpened edge of razor wire. The rare change of pace (and placement as the record’s final number) makes the impact doubly impressive.

Sure, Austin Collins & the Rainbirds trade in known quantities, but not in monotony. In doing so, they’ve created a very likeable record, one that offers a heartfelt, earnest rootsiness, equally good for drowning your sorrows, the triumphant celebration of life’s small victories, or the spaces where the two intersect. B | Mike Rengel

RIYL: Ryan Adams at his least fussy; the least hammy moments of John (Cougar) Mellencamp’s life; Steve Earle; Son Volt’s Trace

 

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