I understand that Marc Miner is tilling well-worn territory with his modern invocation of outlaw/alternative country spiked with strands of other Americana styles. He does it well, however. Pouring old wine into new bottles isn’t an easy skill to master, however, and Miner’s eleven-track second album Last Heroes finds new flavors in a reliable vintage.
The Vienna, Austria singer/songwriter sounds like he has a deep spiritual connection with Americana music. His American-German ancestry doesn’t disconnect him from the genre as he lived for years in the American Deep South where he soaked up the atmosphere, and music, and lived a life that influenced the risky business rife throughout his lyrics.
“Sweet Revenge” plays like a Quinton Tarantino movie filtered through Miner’s consciousness. He extends himself with brief added touches such as tolling bells, but such adornments decorate the song with restraint. Miner is rarely crass; authentic is a much better description. The musicianship powering “Sweet Revenge” is never flashy and builds a considerable head of steam.
The album’s second track “Girl Gone Bad” is a stormy, rock-laced stomper praising the naughty powers of a woman Miner just can’t resist. The guitar work owes a great deal to his blues influences and the phrasing of each line packs a colorful kinetic charge. Miner throws himself into this track with full-on passion. “Nicki & Bob” takes listeners back to the hard-bitten country rock leanings predominating the release. I’m a particular fan of the song’s guitar work; Miner strikes up several memorable phrases that complement the vocals and lyrics. I hear a capable lyricist who draws us into the lives of his characters with artful touches along the way.
“Last Hero’s Gone” is a fatalistic ride, lyrically, and the music buttresses it with effective yet never ostentatious backing. Miner knows how to build these narratives without undue flash. The rousing headlong rush of the arrangement features several instances of backing vocals along the way that further reinforce Miner’s singing. “Hero of Laredo” has a similar tempo, but it’s shadowed once again with the same south-of-the-border feel prevalent in the album opener. The story behind this track is the album’s most fully developed tale, in my opinion, and Miner capitalizes on it with a scintillating performance.
Evidence of nuance in Miner’s performance of “Warrior Princess” helps elevate a distinctive track. It’s safe to say, in my mind, that no one else but Marc Miner would have written this track, but it covers familiar musical ground. I am especially a fan of the patient way he develops the song’s chorus. “Bible & Rifle” gives Miner an opportunity to let his anger fly for listeners, but it’s never manifested as chest-beating rage. Miner is careful to modulate that rage in such a way that it remains dramatically compelling for listeners. He steeps the song, as well, in a formidable country-rock sound that makes it difficult to forget.
“Cheer Me Up Cause I’m Leaving” closes the album on a valedictory note. There’s a bit of dark humor present in this otherwise forlorn song that solidifies his excellent choice of this track as a closer. Marc Miner’s Last Heroes has remarkable consistency clear from the first listen and it holds up under every additional play. This is my first exposure to Miner’s work, but it won’t be the last.