Brandon Rhyder

Head Above Water (Reserve)

Texas Platters

Brandon Rhyder

Head Above Water (Reserve)

Head Above Water, Brandon Rhyder's sixth CD, is the epitome of the Texas Red Dirt scene. Contemporary country with a hint of soul and moments of reflection, it's undone by its complete lack of originality, songs so full of cliché that they border on embarrassing. There's undoubtedly an audience for Rhyder's singer-songwriter moves, and his tremulous vocals place him distinctively above others working the same fallow field, but his subjects – relationships and living the simple life – have been well-covered, and he brings nothing new to them. Retreads of retreads tend make one's head hurt. Producer Walt Wilkins, who worked with Rhyder on his breakthrough, Conviction, offers atmospherics that come across as prog-rock fluff more than Texas plains mysterious, especially on the ambitious title track. Elsewhere, Rhyder offers "big tall trees" and "a snowball straight to hell" on the laugh-out-loud "Battery." What's sad is that if Head Above Water weren't so damn serious, it wouldn't be half as funny.

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