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Westernaire

Milton Mapes

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Album Review

Milton Mapes' 2001 debut was a pretty straightforward alt country affair, with an emphasis on ringspun harmony and Greg Vanderpool's evocative lyrics. But while State Line showed plenty of promise, it only suggested the great leap forward that is Westernaire. Vanderpool and his Austin-based crew have opened a map of the stars and pointed — blindfolded — to a spot in the ether, corralling its crushed planet power and lassoing stardust with slack patch chords and ropes of higher lonesome brainsick and distorted heartbreak. The halting ride cymbal and steadily building acoustic guitar of "Great Unknown" begins the album. "I'm a brave young gun", Vanderpool whispers/drawls. "And I've got the world sittin' on my thumb." The song drifts and seeps between country, blues, and foreboding indie; it's like a Voyager sound-recording ricocheting off alien steel. "Some to Reap" is as anthemic as the opening track is atmospheric. Vanderpool binds his inner Neil Young to the saddle of his fastest horse and ties an amplifier to its tail, the better for Milton Mapes' crackling riffs to echo off the buttes. And suddenly heartfelt alternative country is wiping away the bloody tears of a rock & roll band. But Westernaire doesn't stop there. "Thousand Songs About California" updates the classicist cosmic American sound, letting solid state distortion mingle with twang. But it's the song's mix of hope and melancholia that really kills. The robust melody tries to reassure, but its narrator knows that building a new life is more arduous and dangerous than the promise of a long drive west suggests. The dusty lurch of "Palo Duro" ropes a little more of that chilly night sky; its layered guitars wobble and shudder like a disoriented drunk in the midnight desert. Vanderpool even gets away with name-checking both Young and Bob Dylan. Those guys are definitely the Ursa Major and Minor of Westernaire, but it's still Milton Mapes at the reigns of this spaceship.

Biography

Formed: 1999 in Texas

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Alt-country group Milton Mapes was formed as a duo by Greg Vanderpool and Roberto Sánchez in 1999. The project, which was named after Vanderpool's grandfather, was born from Vanderpool and Sánchez's experience in the music scene of Deep Ellum, a neighborhood in Dallas, TX. After spending a year compiling songs in Nashville, Milton Mapes released its first album, The State Line, in 2001. Soon after, Britton Beisenherz and Jim Fredley rounded out the group. Now a four piece, Milton Mapes released Westernaire...
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Westernaire, Milton Mapes
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