When Gram Parsons died of an overdose in 1973, he left behind a staggering body of work for a man of only 26 years--four albums with the Byrds, the Flying Burrito Brothers and the International Submarine Band, as well as two classic solo records--and it's a pretty safe bet that the members of Denton's Current Leaves (who also play with Doug Burr, Record Hop and Spitfire Tumbleweeds) have heard it all. Pastense, the band's debut, certainly takes a cue or two from the father of country-rock, but lead singer Aaron White is no mere mimic--he's a master stylist, crafting cosmic country tunes so convincing Parsons could have written some of them himself. The feverish surrealism of "Fought a Bear" ("I fought a bear and lost, but now we're friends/And every night is checkers on the porch") recalls Parsons tunes like "Sin City" and "Return of the Grievous Angel," while "Golden Waves" bears the hymn-like qualities of "Hickory Wind" and "In My Hour of Darkness." White's sweet and yearning country tenor shines throughout, pleading with a lover as "13 Hours" rides a propulsive country shuffle into a wall of guitars and breaking into a lovely falsetto on "Canopy of Leaves." Sure, he should probably send a few bucks to the Parsons estate, but when you pen a country chorus as perfect as "It's easy to leave, but it's hell to stay gone," who needs originality?
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