Imaginary Man, by Rayland Baxter
Suggested by Mal Stuthridge
The first thing that disappoints me about Rayland Baxter’s Imaginary Man is the album cover. Specifically, the lack of a moustache.
Seriously. Every other release from Rayland Baxter, both before and after this record, shows Rayland with a moustache that ranges from fringing bum-fluff to proper Ron Burgundy filth. I mean sure, if you’re looking for the best hat on his covers, then this cover wins hands down, but quite frankly I’d prefer and Imaginary Hat to an Imaginary ‘Tache on Imaginary Man. If you’re a pogonophiliac, go check the images on Spotify, and you’ll not be disappointed.
For those readers more concerned with the music, let’s start with the basics. Rayland Baxter is an alternative country musician hailing from the genre’s epicentre of Nashville, Tennessee. He’s the son of the acclaimed steel guitarist Bucky Baxter, and he’s six-foot-five-inches tall. Imaginary Man is his 2015 release, sitting squat in the centre of his career thus far.
Imaginary Man presents us eleven light country tunes from Baxter’s brainpan, each an attractive yet straightforward package. The backing band performs their duties in a straightforward and unexceptional fashion, with some nicely inoffensive guitar and piano arrangements. Vocally, Baxter has a feel of Paul McCartney to him, both in tone and in melody, and I’m unsure if that’s a help or a hindrance. In fact, there’s a little of the Beatles throughout the whole album, especially in my favourite track Freakin Me Out.
If I’m honest, I started this feeling underwhelmed by everything, likely a symptom of my mustache disappointment. It felt too bland, too middle-of-the-road, coming at me with no bite or fight, happy to simply be some songs and then fade away. However, as it progressed, I warmed to its slide guitar and gentle lyrics. It’s not strong or strident, but as an example of what it actually is – a gentle and mellow Lounge Country sound – it has merit. Once I accepted that, I was rather charmed. The low-key lyricism of the lovelorn Yellow Eyes, the rocky distort of the more forthright Young Man, and the simple beauty of the finale Lady of the Desert… it wraps you in a cosy glow, like a musical bowl of Ready Brek.
It’s a simple album with hackneyed lyrics and standard melodies, and its heart is stitched to its stonewashed denim sleeve, but Imaginary Man gets a perfectly pleasant 7/10. Once I’d embraced what the album was offering, it became a textured and comforting musical quilt. And who knows, maybe Rayland would have landed an eight had he not shaved off his moustache before the cover photo shoot.