Dmitry M. Epstein at DMME.net (Sept 21, 2020)
From the South with love and gospel: newly prominent proponent of Americana proclaims his appearance on the scene.
When your alter ego smells of blues, there are certain expectations involved, but John Blangero isn’t too obsessed with stylistic detail of his songs; it’s the spirituality of his music’s message that the Texan’s after, and this artist’s debut has variety woven into the very fabric of each tune. They fare better when driven by genuine feelings, rather than rhetoric which occasionally rears its head here, so the anthemic finale “Let There Be Light” may be the album’s catchy anticlimax, yet the record’s beginning – a smoldering take on Oscar Brown Jr’s “The Snake” – won’t fail to crawl under the skin and set the tone for what’s to follow.
John’s initially parchment-like vocals are drenched in female voices and brass on this opening cut and the piece’s jive gradually becomes wet enough to lure the listener in for a soulful refreshment, and the polished roll of first Blangero’s original “Milkweed And Thistle” should provide this in spades over the course of six sweet minutes, with his ivories – bar-room piano and church organ – quite vividly evoking Southern atmosphere. The more literal it gets, the dimmer it seems: which is why the boisterous “Beneath The Southern Sun” can’t really pull an outsider in, yet if there’s a sense of urgency, the autumnal fatigue of fiddle-caressed “Down The Delta Road” will pacify most restless specter, a few lyrical cliches notwithstanding, before the singer’s declaring, “I believe the man is basically good,” and letting the glimmering “In A State Of Grace” be didactic and jovial at the same time.
But then, the deeper the emotion runs, the more expressive it is, so John’s honeyed pipes make the low tones of “Evangeline In The Morning” sound hymnal, not romantic, while “Love Turns Grey” comes across as a frisky number that’ll warrant a smile. And this is what’s needed to make Blangero’s Americana irresistible: given more balance, Sun King Rising’s next effort must bring him to the genre’s forefront.