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Artist: US 32
Label: Anthony Avenue Records
Time: 13 tracks / 47 mins

Maryland husband-and-wife team US32, Christy and Michael Francis Kline, have a stripped-back country sound, laced with other tastes of Americana. They have had a no. 1 slot on one specialist download chart, but I only found a couple of their self-penned tracks that saved this homely country / Americana project from being gallingly unspectacular.

The title track is based on a letter from Michael’s great, great uncle George F. Kline, who was an eighteen-year-old in 1864 in the American Civil War and was wounded in the Battle of the Wilderness, dying soon after. Co-written with relatives, this track is a precious family event that highlights the cruelty of what war does to young lives. 

While Christy often takes vocal duties, Michael sings in both this and the other highlight. Country ballad “Every Other Weekend” tells the poignant story of a father whose home is empty except for the times when he is granted access to his son.

Both singers can be a bit wobbly at times, but they are supported by a pack of able session musicians (fiddle, mandolin, lap-steel) with credits like Madonna, Beck, Michelle Shocked and Shelby Lynne to their names.

These songs are not short of melody, but they are the sort of predictable, love-‘em-or-hate-‘em tunes that can stay in your head without always being invited (particularly “Down in the Field,” with its intrusive drumming, and “Mabel’s Car”). 

Songs often play the nostalgia card: a house that holds childhood memories; “Uncle Bill’s Farm,” with its childhood memories; a parking lot that used to be a field that holds adolescent memories; a car that is hard to get rid of, because it holds memories; you get the picture… Otherwise, there is an upbeat rockabilly song about addiction to credit, and the very pleasant “If These Walls Could Talk.”
The frustration seems to be US 32’s songwriting. Two covers (the classy “Water Under the Bridge” and a fine version of “Jackson,” which they are clearly enjoying) are musically stronger all round, and the performances feel far more confident for it. This album may well please country aficionados, but few outside the genre, so maybe the next project should feature more proven material.
Derek Walker


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