A certain image or feel comes to mind when the word ‘American’ is in a song title. From Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re An American Band”, to Don McClean’s “American Pie” to Green Day’s “American Idiot”, the word drums up a plethora of inspiration. Singer and songwriter Laura Sumner utilizes “American Man” as her debut. “American Man” is a revealing look and poignant tone that cradles together Sumner’s generous lyrics and a hopeful sound. Coupled with Sumner’s crisp vocals and the strumming guitar, “American Man” easily makes its way to the top of the flooded musical landscape.
With backing music that resembles the perseverance, the rumbling spirit that American runs on, “American Man” is a modest, but tight orchestration. Sumner appears to have her pulse on a honey-dipped guitar, roped into a steady percussion. The triumph in this song is the steel pedal (assuming it’s a steel guitar) that makes its presence known bit by bit. I like the way the steel aura takes the attention, as if it were pivoting the song like knobs on an assembly line. I found the sound to be forlorn, almost sad. It gives off that western feel, the wild west. It’s faint though, very subdued. The guitar, also sounding stripped down, but not missing any of the emotive drive to keep the rhythm and buoyancy of a charming song. The song flows well and keeps your attention, little by little.
Sumner’s voice is accessible – she quickly creates a comfort zone with her listener. This song had me pulled in from the get-go. She’s soothing in a way, but in other ways, she’s charging and direct. I think of the song “Big Yellow Taxi” from Joni Mitchell and “American Man” as warning sirens. The red flags are being waved all around us and if we’re not careful the way of the everyday person, the livelihood for so many will be lost. Sumner isn’t lost in the worry, she’s passed that. I liked that character in her voice, that almost tangible emotion. It’s a great blend, the steady beat and her treasured vocals. This song really grew on me, I wanted to hear more. I need to keep a lookout for more music – she has a unique perspective and as a wordsmith, I like how she turns certain phrases and lays out certain lyrics. “American Man” is quite enjoyable and a memorable experience. No gimmicks, no distractions – Sumner is the real deal.
A graduate of Oberlin University with a double major in history and women’s studies, Sumner notes in her press materials that growing up, she was a fan of the Neil’s – Neil Diamond and Neil Young. Her forthcoming release was produced by Grammy Award Winner Marc Swersky (Joe Cocker, Natalie Cole) and mixed by Seth Von Paulus (Linda Perry, Smashing Pumpkins). She recorded the album at Sound on Sound Recording Studio in Montclair, N.J. I think audiences will find Sumner to have that rare magic – an old soul, with a clear purview on the future.
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