"Talented with words," Andrew Savage sings at one point on his debut solo album, "but am I more than pretty verse …?"
That's the question of the hour for the Parquet Courts frontman. Despite his reputation as a gifted writer, Savage still has much to prove on Thawing Dawn. Do his poetic, plainspoken statements still land without his band to back him up? Is this an artistically necessary project, or just a slight detour between album cycles?
Thawing Dawn doesn't offer conclusive answers. Savage's perspective remains distinct, but he seems doubtful as he steps out on his own. The result is an album that lacks a clear sense of who he is as a solo artist.
To his credit, Savage isn't beholden to his band's indie rock influences. When a pedal-steel guitar line drifts into the opening track, it's clear that Thawing Dawn owes as much to Gram Parsons as Guided by Voices. The Texas transplant slips capably into the role of an alt-country troubadour, delivering pensive lyrics with unpolished vulnerability on "Wild Wild Horses" and "Ladies from Houston."
For all his credibility, though, Savage seems content to imitate or pay homage instead of carving out his own niche. "Phantom Limbo" has the well-worn comfort of an old country song, and though "Buffalo Calf Road" is admirable for its anti-colonial stance, it doesn't venture beyond standard protest song trappings.
Sticking to convention is hardly a deadly sin, especially in traditional genres, but Savage doesn't distinguish himself quite enough to make Thawing Dawn essential listening. (Dull Tools)