With a ringing endorsement from David Berman on the cover sticker, I couldn’t pass up giving this LP at least a passing listen in the shop… and did it deliver!
State Champion are labelled as a “garage folk” band out of the Midwest led by singer-songwriter Ryan Davis who seems to have studied at the school of Berman with observational lyrics that draw moments of interest/surrealism out of the mundane of the everyday.
I don’t know, maybe ‘alt-country’ has become a bit of a daggy genre signifier in the States, but this LP reminds me of classic acts like Lucinda Williams, Alejandro Escovedo, or Uncle Tupelo, all the while remaining within arms reach of the underground/DIY gusto of contemporary “rock”/songwriter acts like David Nance, Lavender Flu, and A. Savage.
There’s everything you want in a country-inflected album: sentimental ballads, witty turns of phrase, beautiful Emmylou Harris-esque backing vocals (courtesy of Edith Frost who did a Royal Trux produced LP for Drag City!), the occasional basement-stormer, and a concentration on the actual craft of songwriting.
All this and more without any Nashville-country cliches or playing throwback outlaw/cosmic country dress ups that seem to be hip at the moment! -Mitch