Stan Swiniarski,
(Up Cellar, 2004)

Mexico is ultimately an optimistic album, cheerful in lyrics and tune. Even the more painful tunes, like "Concrete Daisy" and "One Red Rose," speak to the power of change or the sweetness of life before loss, rather than get lost in a moment of present despair.

Like much of the country genre, Mexico glorifies the smaller moments in life, preferring family life to superstardom, lingering over an old family house or waxing poetic about the family dogs. Americans feeling cynical over the current state of their own country may snort at the enthusiasm of "They Called Me an American."

It isn't considered insightful or sophisticated to voice such earthy optimism, of course. But a divorce rate hovering around 50 percent does nothing to reduce the sort of passions in "One Red Rose." It may sound a bit sappy, but there's wisdom in remembering that we are more than the grim statistics; that there is optimism, hope, enthusiasm and human touch despite all the problems in life.

Swiniarski's sound veers between country and pop-folk, living somewhere in the same neighborhood as Lyle Lovett or Robert Earl Keen, but with a bit more polish and more production. A lot more in the way of production, actually. The album sometimes gets a rather slick finish that contrasts poorly with the tailgate humor of a dog's story in "Bud" or the simple triumph of lasting love explored in "Easy." But even in its most pop moments, Mexico is devoted to doing what country does best, telling the story of everyday moments with sincerity that makes them something more.

by Sarah Meador
1 October 2005

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