By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
When Yankee Racers made its debut with 2012's Duologue, it felt like more of an amorphously defined "project" than a straight-ahead band. That was an intentional dodge, it seemed. The LP was written and composed by Curt Brewer and Nathan Jatcko but performed with the help of a coterie of south St. Louis' best musical talents — members of So Many Dynamos, Old Lights, Bruiser Queen and the Blind Eyes contributed instrumentation and lead vocals — so much so that Brewer, the band's ostensible frontman, was rarely heard on the disc. Couple that approach with Duologue's war-torn/post-apocalyptic arc, and it was a safe bet that if and when Yankee Racers released more music, it would be fundamentally different than what came before. Sure enough, for American Music Brewer and Jatcko strip back both the music and the overall approach, and while the album's name serves as a sleight of hand on the title track, it also defines the folk- and jazz-flecked approach to these acoustic songs.
Brewer, perhaps best known as the fiery lead guitarist for the blues/noir bar band Kentucky Knife Fight (to which Jatcko often contributes), shows his deft fingerpicking and dulcet banjo plucks here. It's no judgment to simply say that this album couldn't be more different than the members' other outfit, both in tone and instrumentation. On "What It Takes" the music takes the form of a circular folk ballad, laying a simple melodic bed for Brewer's searching lyrics and capable, if somewhat strained, vocals. He sticks to the upper end of his tenor voice, and his earnestness covers for a lack of expressiveness. The twinkling waltz of "Stealing Romance," a Milk Carton Kids cover, borrows some of that duo's style with Mallory Nezam's harmony vocals and Brewer's pinpoint guitar solo. Jatcko's presence is more muted throughout, save for some ragtime movements sprinkled here and there and a driving electric piano figure on "Moonlight Mouth," presented in two marginally different forms. All in all, it fits a mostly quiet, low-stakes album that is content to strum where its predecessor stomped.
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