In a single glance, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell that Marc Miner is a country singer working out of Vienna rather than the United States – his music has all the trappings of an old school country album, right down to the contemporary Americana influences that so many artists in the genre have been embracing in a bid to keep up with the rising interest in alternative folk acts. In the bones of his composing we can find traces of everything from the blues to first-gen rock n’ roll, and although this can be said of a lot of players in the domestic underground, Miner’s album Smile When You’re Wasted might be one of the first instances of an international release garnering the level of attention it has in this era of pastoral American songcraft.
“Sweet Codeine,” “Warm Welcome,” “Easy Street” and “Nothing Good Bout the Way I Live” are more harmony-focused than some of the other material on the album is, but there isn’t a single track included in Smile When You’re Wasted that doesn’t feature lyrics as the centerpiece of the song. Whether he’s putting everything on the line in metaphorical carnage ala “Empty Bottle Blues” or getting a little more multi-interpretive and specifically enigmatic with “Everything but Modest” and “Border Town Bar,” you don’t have to be a professional critic to recognize just how much of a personal investment Marc Miner so clearly has in everything he’s singing about in this rookie full-length release.
I really like the string play in “Whiskey & Weed,” “Over” and “Warm Welcome,” and while it’s more of an understated component of the catharsis in “Strip You Down,” it’s always a very sensuous point of allure in Smile When You’re Wasted. I get the impression from Miner that he doesn’t want to be regarded in the same light so many of his one-dimensional rivals in the United States have been in the indie press; had this not been the case, I don’t think he would have taken as intellectual a route when structuring the best moments in his new album. There’s an appreciation for intricacy here that is anything but commonplace, anywhere in the industry, and it could play a big part in bringing this artist the kind of spotlight he’s working so hard to achieve.
Marc Miner drops a really provocative debut LP in Smile When You’re Wasted that lives up to every bit of the hype it’s attracted on both sides of the pond this year, and while I wouldn’t say it’s the only country record you should listen to before 2020 is over, there aren’t many that have the sort of compositional versatility its tracklist boasts in spades. Smile When You’re Wasted has the framework of an outlaw country record but the cosmetic polish of an indie pop/rock affair, and when married together, these two factors produce something that is uniquely Miner’s and Miner’s alone. His sound is in its infancy, but with his skillset, he has nowhere to go but up.
by Bethany Page