American Myth is singer/songwriter Jackie Greene's true debut for the Verve Forecast label. Sweet Somewhere Bound, issued in 2005, was actually recorded for the Dig Music label (where his previous albums appeared) in 2004 and licensed by Universal. American Myth is a much more complex affair than anything he's done previously. The list of players is impressive: from Davey Faragher and Peter Thomas to Greg Leisz and Steve Berlin (who did a fine job producing this set), to name a few. This is the collection that should finally dispel those pesky Bob Dylan comparisons. Greene has grown into his American roots style honestly -- by becoming a better musician. And while there are those fans who would claim that his lyrics may have suffered, his craft as a songwriter has improved immeasurably. "Hollywood" will be the novelty single because of its swaggeringly infectious blues hook, but "So Hard to Find My Way," with its shimmering B3, horns creating a loose, good-time groove underscored by a warm bass line, a strolling banjo, Greene's dobro, and his deft lyrical imagery, is a better tune. His changeup is fine, too, as evidenced by "Just as Well," which comes immediately after with its introspective acoustic guitar and the dobro and hand percussion intro. This is the kind of summery sidewalk tune that the guys in Sugar Ray would have killed to have written. The accordion fills and Greene's voice, which is so utterly cool and in the pocket, captures and captivates the listener. "Love Song 2 A.M." is beautifully evocative without being drenched in sentimentality. "I'm So Gone," is a snaky, hoodoo, traveling song that reflects in full-band form what Greene does in his solo live shows to stunning effect. The guitars by Greene and Val McCallum have teeth. The open-country feel of "When You're Walking Away" (especially with Leisz's lap steel) is offset by its heartbreaking lyrics. The R&B/soul drench in "Closer to You," struts in a barroom-sexy way, which is really interesting when it's bookended on one side by the hard-wired blues of "Cold Black Devil/14 Miles," and the pure acoustic, drifting love poetry of "I'll Let You In" on the other. What it adds up to is that Greene can write any damned thing he wants to and has the heart to pull it all off. Indeed he may be losing the street cred part of the "wandering troubadour" stereotype on American Myth, but as he's shedding that skin he's becoming something more mercurial: a deft, hard-to-pigeonhole American songwriter. Greene is doing this musical vocation thing the right way; he's growing and maturing as he goes, becoming more precise and developing a bigger channel for his muse to sing through.
© Thom Jurek /TiVo