Mike Rosenthal (Red Truck)
Reviewed by Margaret Moser, Fri., Feb. 4, 2000
(Red Truck)There's something about Mike Rosenthal's music that draws the ear closely. It's not the vocals, though they sound favorably Elvis Costello-like on "Settle In" and "Mission Man." It's not the playing, though on songs like "Very Next Town" Rosenthal was clearly an honor student in his pop-driven melodies class. It's not even the way the 10 songs within handily skirt categories -- 15 years ago he would have been a charter member of Austin's New Sincerity crew. No, what draws the ear closer is smart lyrics. Witty, wistful, thoughtful, catchy, they're layered over a profusion of solid melodies arranged with instrumentation that's spare but never lacking, producing one of the most cohesive local debuts in many years. That Rosenthal put in some years as a journalist in the Northeast explains only part of his proficiency; his sense of instrumentation owes much to his bluegrass fiddler father. It's the effortless presence of his words that makes these songs memorable and a cut above the rest, however. They speak of small towns, tender moments, and bittersweet memories, but never fool you into wishing for the past. Instead, they offer lucid framework for the presence and a promise of greater and better things to come.