Matt Suggs

If John Wayne were still alive and rambling around OC, this CD would have a permanent spot in the five-disc changer in the back of his Lincoln Town Car—though the perfect output device for Suggs' solo debut would be something more like a dusty, hand-cranked Victrola planted near a blazing campfire, both popping and crackling in the Arizona night. Even the titles resemble forgotten westerns: “The Rambler vs. the Vulture/ Devils Dance,” “Rambler's Ride,” “Western Zephyr.” Well-worn trails wind through his troubled tales, illuminated by sunsets and darkened by lonely evenings and lost loves, but there are also characters that bark at the moon and shoot up to the ceiling. Suggs' foray into the wide open spaces of country and folk may surprise fans of his mid-'90s indie-rock duo Butterglory (with Debby Vander Wall), but traces of his rough-hewn rock days remain. His songs retain the indie approach, sounding thrown together but still flawless; his vocals are almost off-the-cuff and off-key, yet they fit just right (it'll be a while before Suggs shakes the comparisons to Ray Davies or even Pavement). But instead of the fuzz-guitar-by-way-of-storm-drain production that Sebadoh and Guided by Voices made famous a decade ago, Suggs opts for the straightforward: acoustic and slide guitar, a heavy helping of piano, and the occasional triangle or chime oddity. And it shore is purty—cohesive without being redundant, laid-back but never lethargic. With no more than a pinch of sentimentality and a dollop of twang, Golden Days just might even attract fans from the rock, indie, folk and country camps. (Kristin Fiore)

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