Scenes are more irrelevant than ever before in 2020, and if you need proof of as much, I’d point you towards none other than Austrian-based country singer/songwriter Marc Miner, whose debut album Smile When You’re Wasted is making quite the splash with fans in America and abroad this autumn. Marked with new outlaw standards like “Nothing Good Bout the Way I Live” and “Empty Bottle Blues,” Smile When You’re Wasted is as original a country record as any I’ve heard in 2020 but with a twist – it doesn’t owe anything to the mainstream model outside of a very general, surface-level aesthetical stylization.
MORE ON MARC MINER: https://marcminer.com/
The swing of the beat in the opening track “Warm Welcome” was enough to sweep me right off my feet the first time that I sat down with this record to give it a proper review, but as I soon learned, the percussive pulsations that light up this song are plentiful in tunes like the fun “Border Town Bar” and weighty “Whiskey & Weed.” The drums are as big a contributor to the overall mood in this LP as any other element is, and without their punch, I don’t know that many of Miner’s statements would feel as honest and authentic as they do.
There’s definitely more outlaw country here than anything else, but the attitude behind the lyrics in “Everything but Modest,” “Over,” “Strip You Down” and “Sweet Codeine” alludes to a rock n’ roll influence that I want to hear more of in future recordings. The brawn of the instrumentation isn’t lost in the slow grooves of “Last Words” or “Empty Bottle Blues;” it’s actually made all the more obvious in instances that would otherwise call for straight-minimalism behind the board. Some might describe Smile When You’re Wasted as too detail-oriented in this regard, but to me, it’s what makes the LP so hard to put down once picked up for the first time.
“Everything but Modest,” “Warm Welcome” and “Nothing Good Bout the Way I Live,” have nothing synthetic comprising their melodies when broken down to their nuts and bolts, and yet they’re sparkling with a pop sensibility that transcends their edgy outlaw qualities and makes them accessible as radio tracks. Whether this was deliberate on Miner’s part or not is completely unknown to me, but in any case, I think it’s going to make some of the deeper cuts in this album all the more desirable to indie country DJs who want to play something fresh as 2020 comes to a close.
It’s safe to say that country isn’t dominated by the Nashville machine anymore, and independent players like Marc Miner are absolutely the reason why. Though he still has a long road ahead of him between Smile When You’re Wasted and the international spotlight that comes with scoring some big hits on the charts, he’s putting down the groundwork in this debut to have an incredible campaign in the country genre over the next few years. Miner is on my radar, and from the looks of this album’s reception, other industry insiders are taking note of his progress as well.