American Nomad, the latest from folk rockers The Apache Relay, promises much in the vein of alt-country arrangements and rootsy instrumentation. However, the album falls short where it counts — in its songwriting.
Opener “American Nomad” attempts to set the tone for the record, kicking off with a driving rhythm and squealing strings. While these elements make a warm first impression, the energy is sucked right out of the song once frontman Michael Ford Jr. begins the first verse. His uninspired lyrics fail to match the song’s celebratory tone, and it seems like he quickly jotted something down two minutes before entering the vocal booth.
“Home is Not Places” builds on a dirty guitar riff but quickly morphs into a repetitive sing-along, ultimately abandoning the song’s potential.
The jangly “Mission Bells” flaunts a smooth organ which complements Ford’s soothing vocals but suffers under the dull chorus of “Take it out on me/Though it won’t change a thing.”
This is ultimately where The Apache Relay misses the mark: The band can’t match the tried and true folk rock formula with the solid songwriting listeners have come to expect from the alt-country genre. There are no shades of a young Ryan Adams here, and the closest the group gets to Springsteen territory is covering the sparse “State Trooper” off the famed Nebraska album.
While it may seem unfair to use such monumental achievements to assess a young band’s second album, the genre the group operates in demands a fresh injection of life with each release. On American Nomad, The Apache Relay aims high but loses sight of what really matters in an unforgiving genre.
Dive Verdict: ?????
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