On their third album, the Doc Marshalls drop the Cajun flair that earned them kudos on this site a few years back and step boldly into the spare neo-folk territory explored these days by A.A. Bondy, Anders Parker and Jay Farrar. While frontman Nicolas Beaudoing, may not be the household name – well, in some households, at least – as the aforementioned trio, he’s certainly a talent on par with them. The band made a conscious effort to pare back overtly “country” songs – which translates to a judicious, not liberal, application of fiddle and pedal steel – allowing for an organic development of Beaudoing’s thoughtful, still-unmistakably country songs.
A bleak, autumnal Side A – the siege mentality/metaphor of the opening “Here They Come”; a wife’s ineffable disillusionment on standout “Why I’m Leaving”; the damn-you-Dallas “Light Rail” – yields to a more hopeful, if not exactly brighter (and still plenty autumnal), Side B—“All At Once” (“I think I love you again”); the chin-up, cheer-up “Abilene”; the pleas to actually live one’s life of “Been Busy” and the darkly comic Western Swing number “You Must’ve Loved Me” (a catalog of nasty post break-up stunts pulled by a bitter ex that confirm the titular theory). The two sides cover both “Look out, we’re under fire!” and “Look out at this amazing world!” These may not be your slightly older brother’s Doc Marshalls, especially if he likes accordion, but Look Out, Compadre is the work of a measured, confident band.