Through ignorance or bad advice, very young artists often bite off more than they can chew, applying precociously mastered technical skills to adult material they can’t quite get their souls around. Teenage country singer Blaine Larsen, who sings in a clear, rich baritone that sounds at least a few years more aged than he is, has not made this mistake. He and his producers have written and chosen a nice variety of songs expressing real-life matters from a youth’s point of view, and Larsen has the voice and the skills to put them across.
A number of the songs are frankly autobiographical. “The Best Man,” which pays tribute to a devoted stepfather, has a sweet, if obvious, lyrical payoff in the last verse. I was nervous about a song called “In My High School,” but while its depictions of “jocks” and “rednecks” and “outcasts” carry no surprises, its sentimentality stops short of the cloying: “In my high school they hold assemblies for the football team / But never for the kids with different dreams.” Heck, you can’t argue with that.
The clever, banjo-powered love song, “That’s All I’ve Got To Say About That,” along with “Teaching Me How To Love You,” which features Larsen’s most affecting vocal, show his ability to sing convincingly about both the light and heavy sides of love. “Yessireebob” is a cute novelty number that highlights a playful sense of humor, and “The Man He’ll Never Be” couches a softly intense vocal performance in a lovely, folksy minor-key arrangement that brings the young Paul Simon to mind.
The up-tempo “That’s Just Me” is a by-the-books “I’m just a gool ol’ country boy” tune, but it’s hard to resist. The waltz “Off To Join The World” echoes “Mr. Bojangles” and puts an amusing twist on running away with the circus. And the CD closes with one of its best tracks, “How Do You Get That Lonely,” about the suicide of a teenage friend. Thus the circle of a modern teen’s experience is closed with a tragic last link.
Of course, the music industry chews up and spits out a hundred Blaine Larsens every week, and the persona expressed in our young hero’s music is so goshdarned nice that one almost fears for him. But with a deep, welcoming voice, strong songwriting ability, excellent guitar skills, impish good looks and a smart team behind him, he probably has a better chance than most. This would be a good record from any artist, and it’s certainly a fine start to a career.