Gold Star, “Big Blue”

Gold Star
Big Blue
AUTUMN TONE
7/10

In this day and age, it takes a special someone to craft and perform soulful, country-speckled songs—crooning, harmonica, and all—without a lick of pretension. This spring, the honor belongs to Marlon Rabenreither, a Los Angeles–based troubadour who performs under the moniker Gold Star.

Singing with the sincerity of John Denver about sleeping in train cars and on headstones—about spying on houses in canyons and escaping from Coney Island—he was notably tapped by Lucinda Williams to open one of her recent shows. Even though he was born in Vienna, Austria, Rabenreither hits the mark when sharing anecdotes of vagabonds and deadbeats he’s met in his travels through the States (and during a pitstop when he swilled champagne on Deptford High Street in London, too).

When he’s not sharing stories about strangers, Rabenreither spills his guts about his own love affairs, breakups, and what it’s like to be all by his lonesome self. “I am breaking down,” he repeats three times on the brief “Blue Sky to Blue Sky,” his voice crackling just a bit more with each refrain. The declaration is as convincing as when he begs to know “Darling, what have I done?” and professes that “It ain’t easy when you’re always on the run” elsewhere on Big Blue. The album is leagues deeper and far less dreary than his 2015 debut, the titularly apt Dark Days.

Having embellished his musical performances following that previous, sparely constructed release, comparisons to The Band will abound. But Rabenreither—who, mind you, is a solo artist—really belongs in the company of Margo Price and Sturgill Simpson on their mission to scrape the polish off mainstream country. Gold Star has the goods, and someone should get one of those trailblazers on the horn.

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