Marc Miner – Smile When You’re Wasted
Kicking to life like dust storm on the Front Range, the wild beat that precedes the first lyrics of “Warm Welcome” is definitely something to get your heart pumping, but in all actuality, it pales in comparison to the evocative thrills coming our way in Smile When You’re Wasted. The first full-length studio album from Vienna’s Marc Miner, Smile When You’re Wasted is an outlaw country fan’s autumn dream, and while it’s coming from an artist based well outside of the normal hunting grounds for this genre, it’s surprisingly one of the strongest debuts I’ve heard from an indie player in quite some time. “Warm Welcome” gets the party off and running the right way, and as we slip into the searing melody of “Border Town Bar,” the aural excitement only swells.
Miner slows the tempo down to show us his melodic showmanship in the visceral “Easy Street,” but with “Everything but Modest,” he shows us that hybrid harmonies are the true bread and butter of his sound and artistry. There’s a rock n’ roll moodiness to the bite in “Everything but Modest” that gets turned up substantially for “Whiskey & Weed,” and though it’s mostly absent from the traditional outlaw number “Sweet Codeine,” it’s angst-ridden spirit is far from extinguished as we push on. There’s a lot to this songwriter, and that’s obvious even the most casual listening sessions spent with Smile When You’re Wasted. He has no problem wearing his heart on his sleeve and, on top of that, telling us exactly what he thinks about any given situation.
“Empty Bottle Blues” twists the rhythm up just enough to max out the tension soon to be created by the lyrics, and despite the strong compositional differences between this track and “Strip You Down,” the former flows into the latter without skipping a beat. The biggest identity song here is undeniably “Nothing Good Bout the Way I Live,” an oddly emotional confession number from Miner that throws a gripping sense of yearning in our direction every chance it gets, and when I listened to this album through for the first time, it definitely affected me more than any other track here. The greatest troubadours of all time have been healers as much as they’ve been harmony-makers, and though his methods are coarse, it’s in songs like this one that Marc Miner reveals himself to be quite the profound country poet – and, perhaps, just what we need in this emerging generation of the genre.
Smile When You’re Wasted comes to a conclusion with the one-two punch of “Over” and “Last Words,” both of which lean more on a rock n’ roll concept than they do anything in the standard country playbook, and still they sound and feel a little more rootsy than some of the other content I’ve heard out of the American underground this fall. Marc Miner might initially be branded an outcast for where he comes from and the style of country music he seeks to breathe life into with his play, but for critics like myself, this is what makes him every bit the outlaw his music would suggest he is. A front-to-back winner in my book, Smile When You’re Wasted is required listening for country fans this month.