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You Can't Win

Dolorean

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Album Review

You Can't Win is a slow drive through the kind of America that feels as wrung out and worn through as a pair of old sneakers. It's the kind of terrain traversed by other introspective, rustic, youngish men like Jeff Tweedy, Joe Purdy, and (to an extent) Will Oldham — the kind of place you go if you're looking for empty stretches of pavement and hulking, rusted-out factories moldering in the tall grass. Dolorean's lead singer and songwriter, Al James, is interested in stories about men on the outskirts; You Can't Win, to put it in the words of writer James Salter, concerns itself with "a breed of aimless wanderers" who "have an infuriating power, that of condemned men. They can talk to anybody; they can speak the truth." James is interested in giving voice to this truth, and it sure does yield some sad songs. While James plods over some clichéd subjects on this album (women and booze chief among them), he at least has a knack for story. "Beachcomber Blues" and "My Still Life" tread the usual territory of busted hearts and broken dreams, but James manages to flesh out these old ideas in some surprising ways; the beachcomber becomes a symbol for the directionless wanderer, and the arid Californian landscape is riddled with images of an ex-lover. Granted, there's a lot of drowsy, dull-hearted shambling going on here, and it's a little depressing to come up against a wall of relentless melancholy such as this. But even if this trip is a tad on the soporific side, Dolorean still manages to travel through some beautiful country.

Biography

Formed: 1999 in Portland, OR

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s

Dolorean emerged from sleepy Silverton, OR, in 1999, after guitarist/vocalist Al James invited Standard keyboard enthusiast Jay Clarke to play on a slew of his quiet, avant folk home recordings. Sudden Oak, the duo's debut EP, appeared that same year, and Dolorean began playing out. By 2001, they had resettled in Portland and were a fixture on the local literati scene, accompanying poetry readings and the like with their understated sound. By this point, drummer Ben Nugent had also joined the fold....
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You Can't Win, Dolorean
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