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Milton Mapes
Aspyr Media

I have a dream. Not an amazing, awe-inspiring philanthropical dream like the good Doctor King had… Mine is simpler, less all encompassing. I dream that someday Tom Petty will write songs that are still just as good, but much, much darker. That someday Tom Petty will sing without that whiny, nasally voice. That someday I can stand to listen to more than two Tom Petty songs at once. Well, as silly as all this may seem, there is no need to have this dream anymore. Milton Mapes is here with their second release, Westernaire, and it fulfills these criteria to a tee, and goes so far beyond where the likes of Tom Petty ever dreamed of going. Did Tom Petty ever think of involving the high lonesome sound of real country into his music? I think not.

Greg Vanderpool and Roberto Sanchez formed Milton Mapes (named after Vanderpool's grandfather) back in 1999, and recorded an amazing debut album, 2001's The State Line. What The State Line had going for it was solid songs and Nashville style clean production. It was an amazing listen, and kept me waiting for more. Finally I was rewarded when Westernaire arrived in my mailbox (God bless the good people who sent it to me). These songs are full of depth and feeling like country songs of old, yet are full of the sonic characteristics found in the very best of modern alt-country music. Westernaire would sit very nicely on the shelf next to any Son Volt, Richard Buckner, or Wilco record.

The album kicks off with "Great Unknown", a dark and dirgy track, filled with hard, droning acoustic guitars and pounding, Indian rhythm tom-toms. The vast empty landscapes of Texas and the southwest United States have obviously played a large part in the imagery that Vanderpool incorporates into his music, and in the overall mood he evokes. There are wailing Dylan-esque harmonicas (Maybe You're Not…) that sit neatly beside songs that have the sonic depth of some of Neil Young's best work (Some To Reap). "A Thousand Songs About California" is proof that Milton Mapes don't just make great music, but also write intelligent, introspective lyrics. "I may not make it past Arizona/ That may be far enough to find what I need/ I've heard a thousand songs about California/ They say that's where anyone can realize their dreams…" I think that if Ernest Hemingway had been a musician, this would have been the kind of sings he would have written; complex, yet intrinsically easy for almost everyone to understand. There is so much that this music directly relates to, while maintaining it's own distinctive sound and musical integrity. There is nothing placed here solely for commercial success- such a thing doesn't seem to matter much when you've got this yearning darkness to get out of your soul.

Now I guess I have a new dream. It's a dream where Uncle Tupelo gets back together and goes on tour and plays great music, and Milton Mapes gets to tour around with them and introduce everyone to their own unique and amazing sound. Maybe Neil Young would swing by and play a song or two.

-Embo Blake

Track Listing:

1. Great Unknown
2. Maybe You're here, Maybe You're Not
3. Some To Reap
4. The Only Sound That Matters
5. A Thousand Songs About California
6. Monahans
7. Everyone Around
8. Palo Duro
9. This Kind Of Danger
10. Silverbell
11. The Sad Lines


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