The misery of The Star Room Boys' Dave Marr could mark him as the Morrissey of country music, but his unaffected baritone and downbeat balladry harbor a sorrow more akin to Richard Buckner, or perhaps Leonard Cohen, than to moody English pop stars. The follow-up to this Athens, Ga. band's 1999 debut offers another fine helping of beautifully embroidered lyrics and world-weary vocals.
The unremitting anguish of Marr's heartbreak draws mood from the blues, with visits to Memphis and an older, small-town Nashville for its muscular twang. "Whiskey and You," though musically redolent of a dimly lit Southern roadhouse, could easily find its sentiment drowning in drink at a downtown Chicago bar. "Cocaine Parties" has a pained, dragged-out sound reminiscent of Gram Parsons, and the album's sole upbeat tune, "Daydreamer," finds its happiness only at a lengthy remove.
Instrumental support from steel player Johnny Neff and guitarist Phillip McArdle provides a languorous setting for the romantic fatigue, and despite the wear of unfaithfulness and lost love, Marr remains surprisingly unjaded. Wallowing in one's demons, without surrendering to them, has fostered an unusual clarity in Marr, and that clarity has resulted in an illuminating and stirring release.