A decade after O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the word "Americana" is about as specific as "beer." Portland combo The Beautiful Train Wrecks take advantage of the loose boundaries, working from lonesome pedal steel and loping trad-country twang to heartland roots rock with a pop sensibility reminiscent of Counting Crows. They formed three years ago and are supporting their debut LP Rainy Day Parade, which while appropriate to their hometown, seems unnecessarily dour for such a vibrant batch of songs. The keyboards balance the pedal steel, igniting a barrelhouse swagger that grapples with the western swing and energizes the country-folk's peaceful, easy feeling. Frontman Lucas Alberg's reedy croon glides to the fore of the mix, holding court with steady assurance as the music burbles below. The band's Catholic taste doesn't inhibit the tunefulness of their efforts, but it does limit the album's impact. While tracks such as anthemic atmospheric rocker "Uncle Ralph (Brand New Day)" may suggest a ballad off U2's Unforgettable Fire, it doesn't generate much momentum abutting "Greensburg," a somber folk ode about a city from Alberg's Kansas youth rebuilding after a devastating tornado. The album's crisp, polished charm could also use more grit, creases and wrinkles affording it the weathered, lived-in feel of the band's influences. Nonetheless, it's a fine debut.
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