Pardon Western Keys' Ben Dickey if the Damage done on the Austin band's seven-song debut has the same Bright Eyes and dark thoughts as Conor Oberst's Lifted or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ears to the Ground. The singer-songwriter can't help that he and Oberst both happen to use frayed nerves as guitar strings and broken heartbeats as a rhythm section. Or that they like to tell secrets to the people they shouldn't be telling secrets to ("I'll meet you there," Dickey sings on "Please Rock," "At the place where we had the best sex ever"). Or that sometimes you don't necessarily want to hear those secrets (as in, "My best friend sleeps with all my fucking girlfriends," from "Laughter," and ha-freaking-ha). It's not his fault that someone else out there feels the same way he does, and writes songs about it. And besides, those comparisons are just skipping stones on the surface of Dickey's songs. Backed by Daniel McIntosh on drums-keys-bass, cellist Leslie Sisson and pedal steel player John Troutman (the at-fault drivers in this car crash of country and indie rock), Dickey limps through his letdown lyrics like someone who believes they won't do much good. To him, to you, to anyone else. Sometimes literally: "I have a feeling these words are gonna come back and hit me," he sings on "Getting Sick," "I have a feeling you never believed a word." Too bad the 16-minute-and-change Damage is a tease, giving listeners a bite, not a meal. If this is any gauge, however, it's something worth waiting for.
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