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Vidar Vang | Rodeo (Capitol)
It's tempting to make the claim that Vidar Vang has arrived as a fully formed artist, realizing his full potential with this debut full-length album. But that would inadvertently seem to imply that this is all he has to offer, that there will be no more after this, and I simply can't bring myself to think that. This is too good to not leave one hungry for more. Vang has been around for quite a while now, and all those years spent honing his craft on stage, perfecting his songwriting and performance, carry across on tape. Kicking off with the raucous cowpunk of Locomotive, Vang immediately sets to work establishing a voice of his own, carving out his own niche in the overpopulated world of contemporary Americana. And while there are a few other stompers on here - first single Under Six Strings mimics the E Street rush and I'm Your Man splendidly brings to mind the roots-y rawk of the Replacements - Vang generally prefers to take things down a bit. Drugstore's muscular Neil Young balladry, the carefully moving and slowly unfolding Barefoot Ballet, and the flawed, despairing beauty of The End of the Miracle all add new and vital pieces to this puzzle, and the entire album seem to flow together as a whole, to make sense as one single unit, resisting the more or less arbitrary deconstruction of Vang's craftsmanship into single moments of brilliance. 'Rodeo' is a stunning album that approaches the rich soil of Americana with wide-open curiosity and the need to make sense of the world through music and words. A beautiful and considered album, 'Rodeo' is a most welcome surprise and one to treasure.