Charlie Mars Charlie Mars

Coming straight out of the cultural hub of the Deep South (Oxford, Mississippi), this one-time English major is admittedly following in the footsteps of Flannery O’Connor and Cormac McCarthy, rather than Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters. On this major label debut, following three indie efforts, Mars has certainly opted for a sound that’s closer to the widescreen theatrics of U2 and Coldplay, but he can’t shake that Southern accent. As a lyricist, Mars is subtle when it comes to incorporating the stories he grew up with, and in the process finds some middle ground somewhere in between myriad styles. Opener "Gather The Horses” is a prime example of this, mostly in what he leaves out of the narrative, a trick he undoubtedly learned from the Southern Gothic writers he admires. When he does venture into the literal, it’s on "Bay Springs Road,” a snapshot of his hometown and a reunion with an old flame. Unfortunately, it may be the album’s only truly honest moment, as by this point the overbearing, modern rock production has smothered much of the energy in what are, underneath, some pretty good songs. A bit of a misguided debut, and hopefully one that won’t be repeated. (V2)