Buried well back in the track listing for this release by country-tilting rocker Alien Country is a song called How It Could Have Been, and it’s the perfect metaphor for this messy, fussy album.
Let me get you up to speed on who Alien Country is, though. It’s the brainchild of Florida-based artist Liam Marcus Torres, who sings most of the tracks (a few feature various backup singers, which are presumably from close friends or family members – see below) and plays a number of instruments on this 12-track compilation – one track called Remedy is repeated in a remixed version at the end.
In the case of “Like My Life Depends On It” I must once again sadly admit that albums that are self-produced tend to miss the mark with me because there’s no different set of ears to tell the artist that, “hey, this doesn’t quite work like you think it does – maybe you should drop the prominence of the fiddle on this one” or “I love the bass line, but don’t you think it would work with a different arrangement otherwise?” Unfortunately, what plagues Alien Country often falls into these categories and more. (While credited in one place as a solo artist and multi-instrumentalist, in another there are additional credits so I will assume they helped out. If so, they didn’t give Liam very good producing advice.)
I don’t deny that Liam, who noted on social media his erstwhile presence in a band, would be a valued member because he plays that assortment of instruments to outstanding levels, including what he describes as “unorthodox instruments like the ukulele and theremin (I had to look it up, too) all while staying true to the familiar heart and soul of country music.” The problem is that most of the songs don’t work out as the sum of their parts, particularly in a vocal sense: Torres just doesn’t have the vocal chops to carry this album. Although he has one brief instrumental called Mommy Dearest in the set I’d bet this would be a much more interesting instrumental album, like Joe Satriani made his fortune from. Hold Me is one track which could keep its lyrics, though, as it finds rare success.
It’s apparent that Liam, who looks to be one who’s earned his gray hair thanks to being “a homeschooling father of six” (perhaps a couple help provide the background harmony) has some good friends in the business, though: the album cover is the brainchild of Hugh Syme, described as the “art director” for the band Rush and creator of album covers for artists as varied as the Allman Brothers and Brian Setzer, among others. Torres also has promotional savvy as he’s built a following of “over 7,000 devoted, highly-targeted fans” on social media – the number’s now up close to 10,000 as I write this review, and that’s one place where he puts the few videos like Reality Check that go with the release. (Maybe I should get some pointers from him in that respect for my website and forthcoming book.)
Prominent on his social media as I wrote this review this morning is a quote credited to John Wayne: “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.” I will give him credit for trying despite my gently-projected slings and arrows: while I wasn’t all that enchanted with my visit to Alien Country, I’m just a simple down-home reviewer who couldn’t play an instrument if my life depended on it (see what I did there?) So when I can I invite readers to listen for themselves. You may like it more than I did – after all, he couldn’t have paid for all that following, could he?