Much—most?—of the roots music that comes my way for review is from artists with whom I’m unfamiliar. Whether their first tentative debut, or their ninth full-blown masterpiece, over the last ten years I haven’t been serviced with a lot of music from the mainstream. Hey, back in 2006 it wasn’t unusual for a CD from The Old 97’s, Lucinda Williams, or Alison Krauss to make its way from the mailbox to my stereo and into the newspaper column. Some time ago, the major minors (NewWest, YepRoc, Thirty Tigers, Bloodshot, True North, Stony Plain, etc) decided their promo budgets didn’t stretch quite far enough to reach Alberta and my limited review reach.
And that’s fair—times are tight, and when folks would rather stream than buy…something has to give.
So, instead and because of the fine support of smaller labels, independent artists, and some astute PR folks, ol’ Fervor Coulee (that’s Me) has established a small niche as a roots reviewer with an ear for the edges of our Americana world. It suits me well—not that I would turn away the opportunity to review the latest Dave Alvin, Lucinda, Emmylou, Rodney, or Drive-By Truckers—and I VERY MUCH appreciate those who do send music my way.
What do I know about D. L. Marble? Google and the one-sheet tell me he is a veteran of the American southwest, a road warrior who has released a previous album. He must be bone-fide because Eric ‘Roscoe’ Ambel (he of The Del-Lords, Steve Earle’s Dukes, favourite albums from The Bottle Rockets, and even Bad Reputation) has chosen to produce One Line at a Time, also playing guitar. Based on his online presence, D. L. Marble is a man of few words, preferring to let his music do the communicating, as it were. So, and in that vein, I thought this would be a chance to try something different, and write my thoughts as I listen to the music for the first time—just jot notes as the music plays, and rewinding only to capture lyrics accurately (and later remembering the lyrics are printed in the booklet…sigh.)
I open the CD and remove the disc. Staring at me from the disc liner is a bottle that appears to have once been filled with dark liquor: we are off to a good start. And press play…here we go:
Strumming acoustic guitar, and a modulated, Ramones-style count-in…the lyrics are good right off the hop: “Standing there with the sweat rolling down my face, I cuss the sun and I cuss this god-damn place, I’ve been here for too long, I should have listened to my mom, should’ve stayed in school…”
“Ocean Beach” has a good backbeat, a rootsy rocker of personal recrimination, the regret of the first verse evolving to appreciation for “the sun shining on my face” and the rest. Decent turnaround.
Marble has a good voice, more refined than one would assume from first impression; he looks a bit foreboding, but with his being seated in a rather refined setting, perhaps I shouldn’t have been so quick to judge. Not gravelly at all, he is actually a smooth singer, a folk-rocker type. The drummer—A. D. Adams—is making his presence apparent, establishing a fine groove for the four- or five-piece band. “Same Damn Thing” is a good song of bar band experiences. The album’s sole cover, it comes from Rob Baird’s second album. Marble brings a bit of a Chris Knight element.
Track three: “I didn’t have nothing cool to say, but I think you liked it that way.” Good line. A bit ‘bro country’ lyrically, the song “Tonight” is saved by its wry awareness—it knows its about a (possible) one-night stand, not a lifestyle. I like the guitar pattern. The hit?
I’m enjoying this one, this album. Not sure if the secret of life is to be revealed, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it were: Marble has it going on.
Nice—“Undefeated.” “Don’t wanna go to work today, don’t wanna get out of bed.” True life blues, with no twang in Marble’s voice, but one hinted within the instrumentation. “I lost a friend of mine last week, he was a brother to me. Now, my dad’s got cancer, what that hell does that mean?” A bad month…as is revealed in the refrain, “Life is a straight line, it happens that way.”
Not sure if its three chords, but it sure as hell is the truth. Ramones comes to mind again: country music if Joey Ramone had spent time with Harlan Howard. Straight ahead. Again, really impressive guitar from either Ambel or Roger Singleton.
Nope, this is the hit. “One Line at a Time.” “There’s one in Arizona I wrote in Oklahoma, The one in North Carolina nearly did me in…’cause it’s the lines on the mirror and the lines on my face, Maybe it’s the lines I’ll write on this page to remind- I’m killing myself…one line at a time.” The confessional of the tortured artist, the one who can’t imagine doing anything else. Another drumming showcase, good roots rockin’ guitars. The mix isn’t allowing the bass through, at least to my ears. A Corb Lund feel to this one.
Heartfelt, a boy and his guitar. “Break Even.” Nope, a man. These are the words of experience. “You burned me down with just a touch, now all I am is just lonely—Colorado mornings make it worse.” Forlorn. Some steel in there, or at least a steel-sounding effect. A bit of a wavering moan. Heart breaks, as it must.
“Bombay” starts with a Scorchers feel, so—yeah, I’m pleased. “’Cause I write songs for the broken-hearted.” Yes, I have noticed! Not just the one that got away, but “the first one I wanted to stay.” My, this is good. A good album. Really good.
Enjoying it thoroughly, although this typing is getting in the way.
A confessional of bittersweet reminiscence is “California Memory.” Not my favourite—a bit too earnest for me. Jaded, I am. I like the line, “When she said all she had to say, I wiped the last tear away.”
Next, “Better Than Me.” Country music if Dee Dee Ramone hung with Harlan. Adams doing his best Marc Bell. “You’ll do better, you’ll do better than me…” I don’t think he is even buying his line. Good song though, different from those surrounding it.
The last song, “Chasing You.” Back to the album’s essence: boy meets girl, boy questions what is going on, boy makes sure she doesn’t stay. “’Cause I don’t chase my whiskey, I sure as hell ain’t chasing you.” If only we were all so resolute! I guess in songs we can be callous. “My life is on the rocks.” The Scorchers again come to mind; I could see Jason or Warner writing similar words a few decades ago. No insult. High compliment, actually.
36 minutes later, another freakin’ new favourite. Why do you PR folks do this to me? Now I have to go spend ten bucks to investigate D. L. Marble’s first album… damn it all—he has two other albums and a pair of singles at iTunes. Frick- make it twenty-plus bucks.
I liked this album quite a bit. It feels just right, Fred Eaglesmith had he (in the early days) played rock ‘n’ roll as a roots artist rather than gone the troubadour direction. The guitars are great, and Marble’s voice is the star. Good songs—”Talk is cheap, and babe you said it all.” (The album has started again, and we’re back to “Tonight.”) A. D. Adams’ drumming is spot on, and I am now hearing more of Paul Williams’ bass. Nicely packaged, which is appreciated. Good to include the lyrics, although Marble’s vocal annunciation is great—no mystery slurs.
I recommend this album if you like some rock in yer roots. Best songs: “Undefeated,” “Chasing You,” “One Line at a Time.” Pleased to have heard it.