An American Starlet combines the heartache of classic country with the minor-key flare of Northwest indie rock. The Duchess Of Hazard, the band’s second outing, might as well be its first; following the release of 2001’s overlooked Sweet Country Melodies, singer-songwriter Ian Parks disbanded the group (then based in San Francisco) and relocated to Seattle to meet up with long-time friend Liz Green. The two quickly discovered a vocal chemistry in the vein of Gram and Emmylou. Soon after, armed with a stunning harmony singer and a new batch of songs, Parks cleaned the slate and reformed An American Starlet.
This is an already solid band with plenty of time to grow. Parks has a knack for commanding space and arrangement that suits his songs of longing, alcohol and redemption, while Green’s singing complements and gives flesh.
Over a weeping pedal steel and sparse mandolin accompaniment, the opening title track tells the tale of a lifelong crush that always leads to heartbreak. The following track, “Starstruck Brother”, is a head-bobbing number with a melody indelible enough to linger hours after the album’s close. The standout is the Parks-penned “Half A Heart”, which finds Green taking the lead and delivering a performance strong enough to calm the wildest honky-tonk.