“Warm Welcome” begins Marc Miner’s full-length album Smile When You’re Wasted with rock muscle fueling its country music heart. You will decide early on that Marc Miner’s music is a definite break with what you’ll hear from major Nashville artists today. It harkens more to the sort of music artists such as Hank Williams Jr. and his son Hank III, Waylon Jennings, and other singers or songwriters mining the outlaw country tradition. Despite working out of Vienna, Austria and his European birth, Marc Miner sounds as American as baseball and never strains belief. Some listeners will be a little turned off by what might seem to them a reliance on writing about alcohol, drugs, and the “fast life” in general. There’s real joy in “Warm Welcome”, however, and I believe many listeners will enjoy its attitude.
It gains a lot from powerhouse guitar playing and Martin L.A. Dickinson’s drumming. The musicianship stays at a high level throughout each of the album’s eleven tracks. “Border Town Bar” is one of the best rough and tumble tracks Miner’s written for this release and Dickinson’s work behind the kit is one of its keys. I like the way Miner attacks the lyric; he has a tight grip on his phrasing throughout the track, but he’s careful to never overplay the writing. He shows a lot of attention to the musical arrangement as well rather than attempting to dominate the song.
This is one of the album’s abiding virtues. “Whiskey & Weed” finds Miner and the band in lockstep with another and the chemistry is explosive. I love how the song shifts gears and it will surprise listeners when they first hear the recording, but the highlight for me is how Miner’s singing brings an already excellent lyric to even greater life. “Sweet Codeine” is the album’s twin peak for me. It is a much more downbeat track and the lyrics portray a destructive obsession at its height. Its multiple meanings and lyrical detail further deepen its meaning for listeners. The music is fitting but Miner’s singing is the final measure that helps this song make such an impression on me.
“Nothing Good ‘Bout the Way I Live” has a devil may care attitude you hear elsewhere in Miner’s songwriting. It’s a much lighter number than the aforementioned tandem but nonetheless enjoyable. The chorus for Smile When You’re Wasted’s last track “Last Words” drives everything home for me – it’s a delicious payoff for one of the album’s best developed tracks. Miner sings the lyrics with experience beyond his years – loss has deepened him as a singer and writer and his willingness to share that with listeners is something we don’t talk about enough when songs affect us emotionally. It’s a five-star conclusion for this release and positions Marc Miner to pursue many different directions going forward from here. I expect him, whatever trajectory he follows, to burn bright for years to come and I’ll be listening the entire time. You should hear this album today.
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