I was much taken with Texas-born Dupas's debut album, the Springsteenesque-flavoured A Good American Life and its state of the nation songs, and this ploughs a similar, but more musically fleshed out and personal furrow to equally potent effect. It hits the ground running with the cranked up, barricades storming 'Too Big To Fail', an Steve Earle-like anthem of hope and positivity in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary as he sings how "There's people on the roof, and there's people in the streets. They are shouting names and wanting change, the kind they've never seen."
'Two Wrongs' keeps it rocking, a riff slashing song inspired part by the history of the small town in which was staying and the train that used to stop there and part by the "long overdue and unwanted" conversation he had the night before he set off for an event in Tennessee. Presumably not coincidentally, a train rhythm carries along the following self-explanatory number, 'Headin' Home Again' with Judy Banker on harmony vocals.
Things slow down a stretch, starting with the sparse end of relationship 'Do It For Me', the ache spilling over into the pedal steel stained waltzing 'Some Things', another song about a partner's infidelity and a relationship that's run its course, and the weary road song 'Up Ahead' ("There's a motel sign up ahead, and a $40 bed where we can spend the night"), that's really about trying to keep a relationship going when, for too long, you've been "lost in these headlights."
As you might imagine from the title, 'Anthem' fires things back up for some ringing guitars and power chords, although with its lines about "living for the past too long, dreaming on the promises of poets dead and gone", it's as much a thematic continuation of the previous track as it is a commentary on America. There's a similar mix of the personal and the political in the jaunty swingalong duet with Cole Hanson on 'Everything Is In Bloom' with its lines about soldiering through despite having bills to pay and wounds that time won't forgive because "we're getting too old for goodbyes."
It's back to a snare drum shuffle and pedal steel for 'Promised Land' which. like the opening number, holds out a hope of a change in the air if we walk together, while Hanson's back on harmonies duty for the reflective and reconciliation themed strummed title track with its waltzing melody, yearning pedal steel and martial beat drums. Harking back to the debut, it ends on ''Hold Me Tight', a simple, achingly emotional, looking back Springsteenesque acoustic ballad about blue collar lives, the factory line, the darkness of the night shift, the pain held within and love's embrace that keeps it from spilling out. Give the man a stadium someone.
|Ian McNabb: Star, Smile, Strong||Tom Russell: Folk Hotel|
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