Blue Eyed Angels pulls much of its material from that rich minefield that lines the very edges of relationships. Most of the best material draws from the space around endings, just before and just long enough after to regret what caused the demise. “I'm missing you and that's what I'm supposed to do,” he croons on "Running Away," before deciding “this town is bringing me down and there's nothing left to say.” The album's lead single, “Could've Been My Baby,” finds Baird a few years down the road, pondering what is now impossible. The title track, “Blue Eyed Angels” is a song about the kind of angels Kitty Wells famously warned Hank Thompson about. The album kicks into high gear with “Louise” a New Year's Eve ballad that has him planning to take a new love with him, offering “Baby we can steer clear, make our way out of here, and in the morning you don't have to call me dear.” One of the album stand out tracks is “Fade Away,” a ballad that reads like a sequel to Steve Earle's “Someday” where the protagonist finally takes his girl, climbs into his sleek black Chevy and gets out of the town. “Fade Away” perfectly captures the pessimism of its predecessor; getting out of this place has nothing to do with the journey or seeking greater glory someplace else. The success is merely in the leaving. Just as country music has a long standing history of songs about kids wanting to escape small towns, it also excels at the meaningful booty call song, songs like “Til I Can Make It On My Own” and “I May Hate Myself In the Morning.” “Maybe Tonight” is possibly the crowning glory of all of these songs, with Baird singing that he might “tell her the things I said all along, even though none of its true,” and pondering if he would sleep with his ex or sleep on the floor, before shrugging “maybe tonight, I'll be around.” “I know I wasn't your first love, now I know I'm not you last,” he pines on “Let Me Down Easy,” a song that finds Baird begs for a gentle closure “so I still think you give a damn about me.” “Say Goodbye” offers the perfect finale for Blue Eyed Angels, a quiet ballad about a man who “tried it all and it wasn't enough.”
The very messiness of love affairs and the way that their beginnings and endings blur and overlap is the best theme that Alt-Country has pulled from Traditional Country music. Rob Baird is the latest in a long line to take a shine to this theme. He has the voice for it, stark with just a hint of gravel that conjures images of a dusty hitchhiker wandering from town to town, relationship to relationship and life to life. As a songwriter, Baird models himself on Chris Knight and winds up aiming past him towards that Alt-Country poet legend Townes Van Zandt. On Blue Eyed Angels, Baird harkens back to the best of what Alt-Country was and everything it will hopefully be in the future.
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