California, we have a problem. It is much the same problem we encounter with the whole Texas music phenomenon championed endlessly by Best In Texas music magazine: calculated, paint-by-the-numbers music and writing. This was one of LOM's chief criticisms of L.A. tonker David Serby's latest effort, and the next case in point is the new Stand Up Man from L.A.'s Grant Langston. "We're gonna have a knock-down, drag-out Burt Reynolds movie brawl." Yeah, right.
Much like our critique of recent albums byKanude
(who ironically has relocated from Houston to L.A.) and Serby,Stand Up Man
is just another case of calculatedly chasing a genre, looking for something that might catch on, throwing enough stuff against the wall that maybe something will stick. Half way through
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, you know this is not Grant Langston, never was, never will be. And this isn't about to catch on. Those who know Langston's previous albums also definitely know this is not who Grant Langston was the last time we heard from him -- no matter what his p.r. says about "rediscovering his musical roots." Whatever Langston's country roots are, lines like "Shiner Bock and Vicodin don't mix too well, but I had to take both of them to get through this hell" are as brain-dead as much of the repetitive babel coming out of the current crop of Pat Green clones who think they are the next Townes van Zandt. At some point and on some level, to be legit at this country music thing the artist has to reach inward and find something human that sells it. That just never happens with this pointless album. All the tracks - yes, all - onStand Up Man
sound as if they were manufactured with an alt-country chemistry set or one of those songwriter computer programs set to neo-honky-tonk default. Oh, they're in tune and in time and they sound like real music, but there isn't a single moment lyrically when a listener really believes the narrator has ever had a broken heart or a bar fight, ever found his girlfriend in bed with another man, lost his job or been hungry or desperate enough to kill someone. Emotionally, this album never graduates from kindergarten. Langston just doesn't have the chops and miles to sell this kind of stuff, and we'll pass on addressing the calculated taco'd cowboy hat and Junior Brown suit. Junior can sell that look, Langston can't. Staleness abounds. A lot of this just sounds like bad Old 97s. The only thing real here is the veneer.