Unplugged from corporate resources after a sojourn with the majors, Casey McPherson keeps his vision of widescreen Americana intact on Alpha Rev's third album Bloom. Sounding as if they were recorded on a Hollywood soundstage, "Highways" and the Civil War-themed "Lexington" manage the difficult trick of sounding lush and spare at the same time, evoking the wide vistas and dawn-kissed horizons in McPherson's imagination. "I Will Come" and "Lonely Man" evince just enough smoky brood to give the tracks some genuine menace, with characters smoldering on the edge of a nervous breakdown. McPherson gives the vocal performance of his life, tightly controlled no matter the mood and ignoring any chance he's given to climb over the top. Oddly, Bloom falters on sensitive ballad "When You Gonna Run" and cheerleading pop tune "Sing Loud," which wallow in the kind of cliches that earn triple-A radio play but fade in daylight. Alpha Rev purrs most convincingly with a contemplative frown rather than a comforting smile.
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