It would be very easy to use that much over-egged term “Springsteen-esque” when looking for the initial hook upon which to hang the review of this album. But of course after a decade of witnessing the big spectacle of that man’s music, his own Nebraska album, which this certainly shares many worthy traits with, was also anything but Springsteen-esque. After describing the American blue-collar experience using the most sonically adventurous and cinematically wide screen of methods, his 1982 offering marked the boiling down of that plight to its very essence and if anywhere, it is in that musical approach that the two Nebraska’s meet.
For the most part, the songs found here are wonderfully solemn affairs but never stuffy or precious, they are graceful and reflective, direct and often dark, occasionally even brooding. Kind of Man I Am, for example, lends itself to a shattered Americana sound that exists somewhere between Dylan’s observational balladry and Lou Reed’s solo soul-searching whilst Silent Revolution dances to its own restrained alt-country groove and between those two, not so extreme, extremes, My Nebraska sets out its stall.
Give My Love to Rose is blessed, like many of the songs, with some deft and delicate fiddle as it lilts along like a long lost Nashville standard, Waltz No 3 three-fours its way through a melancholic last dance of the night and the title track is a gorgeously raw, gothic country creation myth of a character recently escaped from a Steinbeck novel.
For the difference between country and Americana you have to look at the boots. If they are buffed, well-heeled cowboy boots then you are in country territory, if you are looking at mud caked, work boots then we are talking Americana. My Nebraska conjures the latter only more so, for they, like the characters found here, are also in need of redemption, they wear the cracks and tears of a hard life openly on their surface and are proud to do so.
There is a raw honesty and everyday charm to the songs, the soul searching of the man in the street and a coming to terms with the simple realities about the way the world works. And whilst you can make an argument for this being British Americana, I would have to counter by saying that rather this is a Brit playing American music. Nothing wrong with that. My Nebraska sits at the heart of American tradition, examines the soul of American music and does so whilst standing on its own two feet through its openness, honesty and gruff, understated charm.