Where does "throwback" end and "reinvention" begin? Somehow, we can smell music that's too stuck in the past, like the musky odor that lingers on a pair of thrift store corduroys: They look nice on the hanger and all, but don't really work for modern life or wear well with the times. Luke Bell, who grew up in Wyoming's ranch culture and now lives in Nashville, has plenty of vintage sheen — a deep, honky tonk-meets-soda shop croon that hiccups and yodels along, a penchant for innocent flicks of piano and steel guitar that swing and sway through tales of hurt and heartbreak where the melody keeps the glass wet but cheeks dry.
But "Sometimes," the first single from his forthcoming self-titled release on Thirty Tigers, doesn't sound like something queued up on your granddad's radio. Swirling Buddy Holly quirk and Elvis Presley quivers into his classic country constructions, there's a freshness to his interpretation of the genre, as if instead of attempting to resurrect a bygone era, he's just trying to pick up where it might have left off, using a levity and acuity that is often best gained by those who study their forefathers without trying to purely emulate them. There's a purity to "Sometimes," too, that's stripped of the sarcasm often attached to anti-Music Row arbiters who worship Waylon Jennings but translate it all into a cartoonish vision of what could have been — the only bitterness here is what Bell feels for the woman whom he loved but had to leave, his "watermelon woman" and his "cornbread queen." Nothing musky-smelling about that.