It’s no big surprise this CD sounds familiar. Robert Crenshaw sounds much like his brother Marhsall, both musically and vocally. He was a part of Marshall’s band (as was the third Crenshaw brother, John) and co-wrote some of Marshall’s songs.
Victory Songs, Crenshaw’s second solo release, harks back to the early days of Triple-A format radio (“Adult Alternative”, aimed at the late 20-somethings who wanted to hear the music they heard on college radio).
Triple-A was a wide-open format then, place where the artists who were not Top 40 radio friendly and did not fit into the classic rock format — The BoDeans, Indigo Girls, Marshall Crenshaw, Juliana Hatfield — could get regular rotation. The format as it was no longer exists, but if it did, Robert Crenshaw would get some much-deserved airplay.
The best way to describe Victory Songs is innocent power-pop. There are no hard edges here, no clashing guitars or blistering solos (“When I Get the Bomb” is close, though). But the songs are pleasant, light without being fluffy, with occasional spots of harmony. The blues and country and americana influences are strong. The only real sticking point is that much of the CD sounds like someone else. Most of it could easily be mistaken for a BoDeans record, while the bluesey “Early in the Morning” sounds like a Chris Isaac outtake. Despite this minor identity crisis, and despite the sameness of several of the songs, it’s a good record. Not groundbreaking, but nostalgic in the way it evokes the folky pop of the late ’80s, early ’90s. It does strike as a bit self-serving, though, that the live track at the end includes and intro that quotes the good reviews of Crenshaw’s previous record. The kudos may be deserved, but is it necessary to crow about the reviews on the second record? I’m not so sure.