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MP3 Scott Link - Coming Around

Great blend of roots/rock and Americana with a honky tonk swagger

11 MP3 Songs
ROCK: Roots Rock, COUNTRY: Honky Tonk

Scott Link is the most famous musician his fans hardly know. That’s because he’s the former Diesel Doug, frontman for the hard charging and much loved alt-country pioneers Diesel Doug and the Long Haul Truckers. Over the course of a career that made him and his talented band alt-country cult heroes, Link cashed plenty of four-dollar ASCAP checks, but he also thrilled through the experience of opening for Willie Nelson and found himself the object of Stephen King’s admiration in the monthly back-of-the-book column he writes for Entertainment Weekly.

King was wowed by Mistakes Were Made, a greatest hits collection (really) celebrating the songs that made Angel Not a Saint and The Fine Art of Carousing so well reviewed and among the best-selling local albums of the past 20 years. They appear alongside live tracks and a Christmas novelty tune that only begin to present a picture of just how fun it was to sip a beer, laugh with friends, and enjoy Diesel Doug tunes that recalled everyone from Dick Curless to George Jones to the Rolling Stones.

As Link led a roots-music movement that put Portland’s music scene on No Depression’s map, there was a time, 10 years of good times in fact, for playing someone else. Now, 20 years after he first picked up his father’s Gibson B-25, it’s time for Link to play himself.

Over the course of the past two years, Link has crafted with gifted producer John Wyman (As Fast As, Ray LaMontagne) a debut solo album, Coming Around, and now he’s put together a powerhouse band full of the best the vibrant Portland music scene has to offer to help him promulgate its inspired songwriting. Guitarist Matt Robbins is the premier rockabilly picker in Maine as a 15-year veteran of King Memphis, paired with fellow axeman Keith Tasker, who’s been seen all over the country touring with Jess Tardy and NYC’s Brilliant Mistakes. They’re supplemented by the keyboard lines of Joe Boucher, a veteran of beloved local pop-rock bands the Troubles and the Frotus Caper.

The rhythm section features a former Long Haul Trucker in Scott Conley, who’s found his own measure of post-Trucker success. As guitarist for old-timey bluegrass band the Muddy Marsh Ramblers, Conley is considered a gifted songwriter in his own right, thanks to fan favorites like “The Old Railroad” and “Above the Timberline,” both featured in the Greetings From Area Code 207 series of Portland alt-country compilation discs put together by Diesel Doug guitarist Charlie Gaylord. Conley is paired with Ginger Cote, quite simply Portland’s most in-demand drummer, a former Nashville session player, and the personal choice of long-time roots rocker Cindy Bullens.

As Link and the band storm through familiar territory all over the Eastern seaboard and Midwest, long-time fans will recognize a heart-felt and ironic country twang, and fans new and old will find it hard to resist his honky-tonk swagger, refined and softened since he first took his art-school aesthetic to a sawdust-strewn barroom stage.

With his new work, Link opens up and lets us inside that formerly manufactured Diesel Doug persona with hints of the naked joy of pure pop and the introspection of indie rock, without ever straying from the guitar-based Americana that first inspired him. It’s honest, and real, and proof that there’s always a place for stories of hard work and simple pleasures. “Done” will remind you of the first time you were really floored by the girl across the room; “End to End” will make you wonder if she might just be too much of a good thing.

That is, if you can think about anything while the fat-bottomed guitars tug at your belt buckle. Link’s a master of the beer-soaked slow burner, good for last-call swaying on sweaty summer nights, and he’s got a mean nostalgia streak. “Picture of You” is a flat-out stomp to “free me from this wasted time.” There’s a simple poignancy to couplets like his title track’s “There are answers right in front of us, if we dare enough to be bold/ Should we fall, a strong hand to grab hold.”

Link has dared to step out from behind the curtain. Dare enough to join him.

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