When I’m Gone, the third full-length from Brad Colerick, a late-blooming Nebraskan tunesmith, starts off promisingly enough with “Nashville”, a song about Music City’s tendency to suck the soul out of country troubadours like Colerick—it’s by far the toughest song here. As it turns out, that’s not saying much. The album bolsters the industry phobia of the first track by steering clear of the high-gloss production values of modern country radio, but Colerick also avoids the subversive grit of a true maverick. The result is a record that drives so squarely down the middle of the road that it’s begging to be flattened under the heavy traffic of this fall’s roots releases. The bright spots occur when Colerick brings the full-blown bluegrass, as on the breezy roll of “What’s in Front of Me”, featuring Herb Pederson on banjo, or on tunes that embrace a brand of new age-y newgrass, like the Tim O’brien-ish “Will You Be There”. The songs are occasionally strong enough to break out of the album’s routine milkiness—“Anisia Valentina” is reasonably lovely but saddled with first-draft lines like, “I’ve never seen a princess quite like this / She sealed our hearts together with her kiss.” Throughout, in fact, Colerick defaults to simple lines that range from wistfully idealistic to drastically sentimental—the most maudlin are those in “Paper in Heaven”—designed for maximum tear-jerking (“Daddy, is there paper in Heaven, so you can write your songs?” Egads.). Colerick, with his mild, undistinguished vocals and a style neither slick nor edgy, is left with an album that’s merely pleasant, which probably isn’t enough to excite any segment of the country-lover’s spectrum.
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