Anthony Crawford's unassumingly charming debut album brings several pop troubadours past and present to mind: He looks like Jackson Browne, sounds like a raspier version of Crowded House's Neil Finn, and frequently writes of youthful Angst recalling everyone from Cat Stevens to the late Kurt Cobain.
But even with that confluence of sources informing his songs, Crawford comes off pretty much as his own man here. Like Crowded House, Crawford grabs your attention with careening melodies and holds it with lyrics that work like pieces of a puzzle, rather than a whole picture. That helps give his songs a longer shelf life than those who reveal everything upfront. He expresses disillusionment with a friend in "I'm Not Sure I Believe You Anymore." But where so many of his contemporaries in the world of grunge rock stop after venting their frustration and anger, Crawford uses a well-developed sense of humor, albeit black humor, to transcend his feelings of betrayal: "If you're looking for Fred/Fred's not home/He's out for a while/But if you hold your breath/I'll count along/To your pretty blue smile."
A popular studio musician who plays a gaggle of stringed instruments here, Crawford was discovered by Pete Anderson, Dwight Yoakam's longtime producer and collaborator. Anderson was so impressed with the original songs he heard Crawford noodling with between sessions in a recording studio one day that he formed Little Dog Records expressly to help get a wider audience for Crawford's music.
Lucky for Crawford--and for us--that he spent that break strumming instead of dashing out for a Big Mac.