With the recent emergence of artists such as Sturgill Simpson, Sarah Gayle Meech, and Angaleena Presley, we appear to be witnessing a resurgence of a type of country music that takes its bearing from traditional forms without slavishly aping them. Add newcomer Sam Outlaw to the list. Outlaw (his mother’s maiden name, which he’s taken for performance purposes) calls his version “SoCal country,” but it’s not the Telecaster twang of Bakersfield; it comes with an accent on the mellow and the melancholy that starts with the sound of his voice. Outlaw looks to the sound and wordplay of classic honky-tonk for “Jesus Take the Wheel (And Drive Me to a Bar),” but he’s equally prone to draw from other streams, from the south-of-the-border/countrypolitan cross given to the title track and to “Who Do You Think You Are” by combining strings and mariachi horns to the sweet country-rock lope of “It Might Kill Me” and the understated, Don Williams-channeling amble of “Love Her for a While” and “Old Fashioned.” The net result is an assured and engaging country music debut. (Out Tuesday)
ESSENTIAL “Angeleno“Stuart Munro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.