The wistful vocals and steel-guitar wail of alt-country do not flow only from the heartland dreams of musicians like Jay Farrar and Ryan Adams. Scottish singer and guitarist Roddy Hart is just as capable of reviving Americana from his corner of the earth, and on his debut album he does so with sincerity.
On “Flames,” Hart kicks up the tempo and invests himself in a landscape of heaven and hell, impassioned wanderers and tragic lovers, capturing roots country’s core. Other songs like “I Will Not Fear the Dark” almost stay afloat, dragged down by lyrics like “precious fragile girl, speak your poetry to me,” at least one line too cheesy and mundane to survive the world of gritty nostalgia Hart aims to create.
Hart’s instrumentation is familiar, not too edgy and sometimes—because he tends toward Americana blueprints—forgettable. Despite these brief moments of disintegration, Bookmarks is a tenacious recording with fresh perspectives on old-as-the-hills themes. Featuring Kris Kristofferson on two tracks may lend his album some authenticity, but Hart is best on his own, pushing his voice beyond ordinary wistfulness. (Erika Fredrickson)