Dan Sartain - Join Dan Sartain

Tim Miller 24/01/2007

Rating: 3/5

Dan Sartain is yet another male singer/songwriter, yet to invade my consciousness, although that said, there are on average 77 new singer/songwriters releasing new albums every hour in London alone*. So it is no surprise to find myself oblivious to Mr Sartain.

*Yeah, I made that up.

Awaiting this CD somewhat half-heartedly then, I am instead pleased to find that Alabama's Dan Sartain is no imitation of James Blunt, Damien Rice or the lesser stratospheres of British male solo artists. Drama Queens, the minute and a half long song that opens this album, and the following Totem Pole, see country and western licks and guitar strumming at a real galloping pace, which are more often than not backed up by ragtime style drumming which just adds to the upbeat feel most of the songs here.

This undoubtedly produces its moments, not least the opening songs and the wry tale of male rivalry on Gun vs Knife; He thinks I took his girl, but it simply isn't true, but I know he's got a gun, and I don't know what do to. Elsewhere, Hangers On and Young Girls revel in this barren Country set up, the latter of which somehow reminds me of the Harrison-penned Beatles track You Like Me Too Much.

Called the 'punk Elvis' by i-D Magazine, it does seem a little premature. 'Punk' hides the fact that much of the music is thinly layered, with little more than vocals, a single guitar and drums on most of the tracks, while 'Elvis'…well. They both seem to be doing alright out of a blues-based Americana sound I suppose. The nagging downside to this album is that I'm able to categorise 'most' of the songs together; and there are 15 here that, combined, last a little less than 40 minutes. 'Most' of the songs feature that driving Country strumming of minor chord patterns, and 'most', with their quickening drums, don't reach more than two and a half minutes.

By way of contrast, the tone is tweaked most notably with the songs Flight of the Finch and Besa Me Mucho, both based on Flamenco rhythms and the occasional burst of brass and violin; indeed Flight… is exquisitely balanced, the Latino-ballad being the one point on the album when Dan Sartain's nonchalant cowboy manner truly disappears in a moment of desperate self-doubt.

Overly long and tending towards repetition, Join Dan Sartain is nevertheless a breath of fresh air in the market for solo male artists. With a confident stride and tone, Dan Sartain certainly approaches this album with vigour and attitude, and tracks like Flight of the Finch, Gun vs Knife and Hangers On are stark examples of Sartain successfully appropriating a Johnny Cash-era blues/country sound for a modern audience. He just finds himself let down by the reliance on that sound that, stretched out over most of the 15 songs, lacks real depth and lingering qualities.

Released 2nd October 2006.