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Mando Saenz

Watertown – 2005 (Carnival)

Reviewed by T.J. Simon

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CDs by Mando Saenz

Fans of the balladry of Lyle Lovett and Bruce Robison will enjoy this debut disc from fellow Texas singer-songwriter, Mando Saenz. Originally self-released in 2002, the collection of 11 songs is a mostly mellow alternative country journey through vivid imagery encased in confessional first-person narratives.

Saenz's biggest strength comes from his ability to paint pictures with his descriptive lyrics. You can almost see the dusty, Texas roads described on "When I Come Around" and taste the sizzling breakfast on "Egg Song." His instrumentation is solid, but never flashy. From the fiddle interlude on the album's opener, "Julia," to the pervasive gentle accordion on "Rusty Steeple," Saenz delivers the goods among smooth production with nary a hair out of place.

The biggest criticism is that there isn't a wide variety of songs. Throughout the record, the cadence or style doesn't diverge greatly from one track to another. Chalk up this conservative approach to first album jitters. Nevertheless, Saenz has proven himself to be an artist with the talent to spread his wings further on future releases. In the meantime, his enjoyable disc certainly merits a listen.