This year has brought us some intriguing records that fuse the worlds of pop and Americana. Created largely by women — Hannah Miller, Jesse Baylin, and Kasey Chambers, to name three — their soldering of styles both modernist and traditional have had a thought-provoking effect our ears and redefined what we mean when we discuss “American music.”
The first boy to be welcomed to the club, Rayland Baxter disrupts the chromosome balance of the equation with his new collection of tunes that integrate smartly consistent lyrics with self-effacing melodies and subtly simple arrangements. The opening cut, “Mr. Rodriquez,” is a treat — a beautiful narrative of those who live like kings in their minds (and under the freeways in their lives). Baxter blends a deceptively simple pop structure (complete with lyrical “la-di-das”) with an aching story of childhood on “Mother Mother.”
Baxter’s music feels a bit more folkie on the easy ballad “Yellow Eyes” and the acoustic showpiece “Rugged Lovers,” the former sounding a bit like Harry Nilsson and the latter more in the vein of Leonard Cohen. Elsewhere, the screaming electronics that open “Freakin Me Out” pave the way for a fervent ballad that would make John Lennon proud, while the gentle piano and pedal steel of “Your Love” make for a truly amazing listen.
Seldom does the term “Beatlesque” come into play here at the BGS, but the pure pop essence of the Fab Four’s shimmering orchestrations and melodic genius shows its face here, beautifully wrapped in the spirit of Bradley’s Barn and generously imbued with the simple heart of a country boy. A spectacular listen.