D.L. Marble,
Not the One
(Dirtbag, 2012)

Hayes Carll,
Kmag Yoyo (& Other American Stories)
(Lost Highway, 2011)

The Arizona-based D.L. Marble occupies a place on the musical landscape that those of similar mind and taste will find familiar and comfortable. His sound is a mix of Southwestern country-folk and basic stripped-down, mid-tempo rock 'n' roll wrapped in original songs set mostly along rural highways and amid desert surroundings where love triumphs, crashes and otherwise distracts. He's a good singer, the songs are nicely crafted and smartly arranged (by the always dependable Eric "Roscoe" Ambel), and they ring pleasantly in the ear. That last, translated, indicates that I've played it more often than I expected to. Guy Clark, Lyle Lovett, Steve Earle and the late Townes Van Zandt are among the influences of whom you'll think first.

The difference is that all of the above-mentioned grew up in the shadow of the folk-music revival and its influences follow the still-living among them. On the evidence of this record, Marble knows little of traditional -- i.e., actual -- folk music. To appearances, like most of his contemporaries he's been educated by other singer-songwriters, only a few of whom may know who Frank Proffitt, Doc Watson, Cousin Emmy or Roscoe Holcomb is. In short, the roots aren't as deep as they might seem, which means that Marble is probably best described as an Americana artist.

Tellingly, Marble must be the first -- anyway, the first I've heard -- to name-check Hayes Carll in a song. Chances are most of you haven't heard of Carll, though perhaps you should have. The mention led me to pull my single Carll CD off the shelf. I'd listened to it once when I bought it, and that was it. On second hearing I grasped that the guy is a genuine talent with a splendid wit. He's an Austin-based singer-songwriter, which is neither an extolment nor a warning, just evidence that he's playing a trade with a whole lot of competitors.

If you like Carll or Marble, you'll like the other one, too. Maybe they're starting a new sub-genre of modern sort-of roots music.

music review by
Jerome Clark

7 July 2012

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