It’s not just the surname the Idaho singer-songwriter Jeff Crosby shares with one of the iconic figures of the late 60s/early70s Laurel Canyon country/folk rock. Not only does the album cover see him looking like Michael Murphey, but his music is very much steeped in that era and that which it in turn influenced. Indeed, the opening track, City Girls sounds like Jackson Browne channelling Steve Nicks’ Dreams. That’s pretty much the tone for the remaining nine (official) numbers, Crosby a smooth-voiced warbler with a keen eye for an image and (“I’m just standing here like a payphone nobody uses anymore”) and a soft soulful melancholia touch to his vocals on balladeering moments such as the reflective Carved In Sandstone, the regret-soaked piano backed strum of Emily and the world-weary Red White and Blue with its keening lap steel.
Its theme of seeking direction is echoed in the more uptempo The Homeless and The Dreamers and its lyrics about a man without an anchor to his drifting life feeling lost and prompted to write home as he sees himself reflected in the “stories in the lines of the faces walking by.” He adopts a similar pacing with the chugging Canyons, a song about a friend’s passing, and the country feeling I Should Be Happy before the final stretch sees him crank up the engines for a full blooded rock assault on What’s Normal Now and the marching beat of the anthemic title track where echoes of Seger and Springsteen filter though those of Browne.
Tagged on at the end are two bonus tracks, harmonica blowing through the acoustic strum and piano cascades of The Old Town while Oh Love Oh Lord is a playful R&B and gospel-influenced number with hints of both The Band and Leon Russell. There’s many an artist out there mining America’s rich musical history and shaping it into their own experiences and observations; Crosby may well be one of the best.
Emily (Live Clockwork Owl Session)
Out now in theUK via At the Helm Records