Make It Through This World
Sugar Hill, 2005
REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/24/2006
Greg Trooper's last name is an apt description for his music -- while it may be musically married to country and folk downbeats, it's lyrically upbeat, almost as if Trooper has seen the depression and is ready to face the world again. "I just need some time to shake off half a century / Back in the world I'll climb / Once I dream away these blues," he sings in the opening number, and he sounds like he means it.
Trooper's voice is a pleasant mix between Randy Newman and any modern country singer you can think of -- Travis Tritt, for example. His music plays like that as well, blending country and folk with soul and pop, and those upbeat lyrics are certainly a welcome listen in the post-9/11 music scene. Even the admissions of defeat -- "When I go to meet my maker / And she says I've got to choose / Give the girl the rhythm / I'll take the blues" -- sound fun, like Trooper is smiling as he gives up his life for the girl in "This I'd Do."
The smoky ambience of the disc would fit in perfectly at a coffeeshop or summer folk festival, and that's likely who this disc will appeal to. Trooper has no overarching hook that will appeal him to the mainstream -- he's too laid-back and folk-ish to be on country radio, but too confessional to be mainstream easy listening. Those into Greg Brown and the folk scene will get the most out of this, but country listeners who enjoy a bit of variation on their genre will enjoy this as well.
None of the songs overstay their welcome, but they don't branch out either from basic singer/songwriter territory. Trooper offers some pleasant solos and his rhythm section is competent but unchallenging, sounding a bit like the Eagles on some tracks, especially the title track. But as on his Sugar Hill debut Floating, Trooper is always able to retain a sort of detached commentary on his vocals -- he never sounds emotional, instead shooting for confessional, and it suits his style well.
The most lyrically potent moment is "No Higher Ground," about a flood in Galveston, while the most musically interesting is "When I Think Of You," the most countrified song on the disc. "Close To The Tracks" also is a strong number that recalls Bruce Springsteen, while "Lonesome For You Now" is the most wistful Trooper ever gets, and his confession is more heartfelt than most of his contemporaries.
Unfortunately, Make It Through This World ends up being too subdued for its own good. None of the songs are particularly memorable on first listen, and Trooper never varies his style of singing or his backing band too much - with all the styles present, something should be more arresting. It sounds nice as it plays, and the man can write good lyrics, but the disc never really takes off beyond anything more than competent.