Andrew Delaney & The Horse You Rode In On

Andrew Delaney's music bears a certain and substantial believability. Sure, the rusty squeezebox, the wheezing harmonica and the sparse, lost-hope echo he washes his electric picking in deserves some credit. But so does his acoustic country strum, which, while straight-ahead almost to a fault, works well because it so smartly makes room for Delaney's regal narratives.

Scoundrels!, Delaney's 2009 debut, featured well-written, dark-cloud Americana tales of woe, and simple, hooky alt-country acoustic numbers. But on this second release, Delaney rides in on a more upbeat horse. There's a mischievous and nuanced energy at play here. But Delaney's gift of storytelling and his ear for prime country hooks thankfully remain.

"Whiskey Walkin'" starts things off innocently enough, with stepped-up strumming that consorts with an accordion. But it's the second song, "Tunnel of Love," where things really start to ascend, showcasing a slick, almost rockabilly direction—a surprising, and well-carried out venture for Delaney, if just for one song. The third track brings things down a bit, highlighting his gift for songwriting, as the somber, candid thoughts of "Hole in the Sky" reveal the brightest potential for his career.

The more upbeat theme follows through "Just One Dance," as trademarks of Delaney's simple yet irresistible brand of storytelling bubble up on "Silver Dollar Blues," "Dead Man's Boots" and "Maggie McBride."

Delaney's horse may be galloping a little faster this time around, but his steed remains quite the vision.

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Alan Ayo