That’s a good phrase for it: charming, tuneful, lovely, with a bit of the unassuming down-home twang that you don’t get much on the coasts.
Here’s another word: Olverian (adj.), of or relating to Wisconsin’s great Ian Olvera, around whom a lot of good local talent is beginning to collect, rearrange, and shoot off on its own.
Last summer it was Olvera himself on Beach Patrol’s “Daytime Highs,” a record that split the difference between Olvera’s sparkling hooks and Domenic Marcantonio’s punky sneer. Now two of Olvera’s regular Sleepwalkers, bassist Connor La Mue and drummer Ryan Gracyalny, have joined up with Steve Sampson and Ryan McCrary for the Midwestern Charm’s solid self-titled debut, one of those picking up the pieces, after the blow-up albums on which the promise of new beginnings and the sting of recent losses mingle into music that’s buoyant, bitter, and bittersweet.
La Mue has the perfect voice for this kind of brokenhearted country pop -- clear-eyed without going over the top or forcing the issue, gentle and just guarded enough to let you know that something’s wrong beneath the music’s flawless sheen. Maybe a little too gentle? The record’s second half stacks up ballads -- good ones, sure, and I especially like the classic acoustic brow-furrowing on lead single “Better Days,” and the way that the drumming underscores La Mue’s harshest words on “Don’t You Say” in a way that La Mue can’t bring himself to do on his own. But I missed the energy on the first half, “Movin’ Out’s” stop-start shuffle out the door, the bottoming out turnabouts on “Never One for Dancing,” the defiance that some playful electric guitar licks prod out of La Mue on “We’re Not Alone.”
I’m a firm believer that you’re not really over someone, or some bad thing, until you get pissed off. Whatever it takes to get La Mue to raise his voice a little more often -- happiness, maybe even worse heartache -- that’s where record two should start.
Joey Tayler is the lead writer on Rocksposure.com. Based out of Milwaukee, WI, he is always looking for a new show to see. If there is something you think he should be listening to, send him an email at JoeyT@Rocksposure.com