BRANT CROUCHER – Blanco County Lights (White Cat)

BlancoTexas to the core, Croucher was born in Houston, grew up in Dallas and spent valuable years in both Nashville and Austin, all of which have informed his drawled brand of old school Americana; however, while he cites Don Williams as one of his prime influences (as you’ll appreciate when you hear ‘Drink’, which features Lloyd Maines on dobro) , listening to his debut album you might also find a touch of   Gordon Lightfoot folksiness and maybe even John Denver in there too.

Grained with honesty and hard earned wisdom, he has a very easy on the ear vocal as well as a keen sense of melody, both clearly evident from the rolling opening track, ‘When You Come To Me’, a number that brings together the image of open highways, reflections on a life lived and memories of lost loves that permeate many of his songs.

Several tracks take an upbeat musical approach, the shuffling rhythm that carries the familiar themes of women and drink in ‘Doing Well’, the twangy ‘Time I Walk Away’ with its elusive search for purpose and contentment, a barroom country rocking ‘Still The One’, the enjoy life while it’s here boogie woogie piano Cajun-country ‘Joie De Vivre’ and the Texas dirty rockin’ ‘84 Boxes’ which recounts how, in one of many past jobs, he and his fellow workers had to unload 84 tables off the back of an 18-wheeler.

All of these he delivers with an effortless panache, but it’s on the more leisurely tunes that he scores strongest, as with the simple, fiddle accompanied mid-tempo ‘Theodora’ which tells the story of the enduring love between his grandfather and grandmother, the bruised end of an affair resignation (“I won’t run back to a burning bridge”) of the tumbling ‘Free Will’ and the longing and leaving of the superlative title track, a self-forgiveness ballad that can hold its own against the best of the early Eagles. Croucher plays piano on that and , accompanied by Liz Lee on cello, he returns to the ivories for the album’s closing number, the rawly personal ‘Greenville Avenue’ about how we hope that if we pretend everything’s all right for long enough then we may come to believe it.

The album’s had a fairly low key release, there’s been no huge promotional campaign or hype and there’s been no reviews in the mainstream tastemaker publications, but in the months to come, as word of mouth gradually grows through live dates, radio play and the specialist media, I suspect it’s going to be seen as heralding the arrival of a bright new star on the Americana scene.

Mike Davies

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