In spite of producer Jon Dee Grahams tantalizing it was a joy to work on a record that was about something blurb, connecting with Steve Wedemeyers debut album took some doing. Early on, there were moments when I wanted to strangle the young Houston folk-rocker for his Bob-Dylan-irritating, frequently-intelligent-but-sometimes-unintelligible vocals. Read between the lines: acquired taste. Secret: The louder you play it, the faster you acquire it.
Fortunately, there was no doubt about the lyrics of The Joker, the obvious centerpiece. A street epic about a local bum comes together with perfect clarity as Wedemeyer asks, Do you hate him cause he reminds you of how hopeless we can be? while Mike Hardwick hits a lonesome lap steel note that cuts right through all your toughness and defenses.
With Graham, Hardwick and Wedemeyer all twanging away on Flood Plains, the album finds its center of gravity as Wedemeyer deadpans in a Gulf Coast drawl, We can try all we want to stop the floodwater/But they win in the end/So pack up and move on.
True to Grahams word, Wedemeyer is indeed an impressive young songwriter with a surprising amount of matter-of-fact maturity and old-soul wisdom. His songs and characters are as bruised as his voice; perhaps this is why he and his songs mesh so well with the black-and-blue voice of Graham, who also seldom shuns an opportunity to mine the depths of despair or heartache or resignation for a good lyric.