Left Arm Tan
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Left Arm Tan

Fort Worth, Texas, United States | SELF

Fort Worth, Texas, United States | SELF
Band Americana Country

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"Strikingly Tuneful Americana"

Austin gets the press, but Fort Worth, quietly living in the glitzy shadow of Dallas high-rises, is the quirky sibling who's cowtown heritage provides a unique sensibility without an overweening claim to hipness. So too for this Fort Worth quartet, whose second full album of Americana is as deeply appealing as it is unassuming. Left Arm Tan (the name is an overt reference to Wilco's "Monday," but more easily ascribed to the road-trip worthiness of their music) released their first album, Jim, in 2010, and a follow-up EP, Thurm, in 2012, picking up college, alternative and European airplay despite limited touring. In their late-30s and early-40s, the members of LAT have been through the grinding miles of year-round club-gigs, and chosen instead to settle into full-time day jobs that provide time to write and record, and play shows within a day or two's reach.

Their careers leave them time to focus intently on songwriting and studio craft, the latter complemented on this outing by producer Salim Nourallah. The band's country-rock foundation hasn't changed from their self-produced releases, but Norallah's touch (or simply their growing comfort in the studio) lets the new songs breathe more deeply. Where their earlier performances could feel rushed, as if the songs had been learned in front of uncertain bar patrons, their new studio work has the confidence of a band that knows they can hold your attention. The album opens with a typically catchy hook, "The radio's selling tales of our unrest," and as the societal observations turn into personal declarations the music escalates in parallel from guitar-and-voice to rock 'n' roll as the singer admits his real reasons for writing. You'll find yourself humming along within the first minute, and singing the refrain the second time around.

Vocalist Troy Austin and guitarist Daniel Hines write lyrics that thread a line between personal moments, broader observations and images that complement both the internal thoughts and the external connections. There's a twangy, almost mystical romanticism to several songs, suggesting Chris Isaak on "Black Dress," and shading darker on "Headlights." The latter opens with the striking lyric, "I dug a well in the pit of my heart and I named it after you," and though the well eventually runs dry, the song turns melancholy rather than bitter. There's a bevy of songs about longing for, budding, bending and broken relationships, each with a memorable setting and many highlighted by pithy observations and striking images. This is an accomplished album from a band whose considerable raw talent has found refined expression in the hands of an outside producer. - No Depression


"Left Arm Tan"

Left Arm Tan calls its second full length album Alticana, which sounds like a shortcut for "alternative americana" which some might call alt.country. However the Texas quartet chooses to define their sound, it's nothing less than one of the brightest, most tuneful albums of 2013. Like Sons of Bill or Reckless Kelly, Left Arm Tan trades in working class country as played by an outfit with road experience and suburban smarts. You won't find them struggling to sound hard or reaching too desperately for their "alt" cred. Alticana comes across as genuine blue collar music. Songs like "69 Reasons" and "Carnations" go down smooth with refreshingly tuneful choruses and just-right arrangements. - Routes and Branches


"Saving Country Music 2010 Song of the Year is "Wish""

I know that this is an unusual pick, and I know that it might be an unpopular pick. But the simple fact is that “Wish” was the best song put out in country music and all its subsidiaries in 2010, and it deserves the utmost recognition that I can give it, however obscure my platform is.

“Wish” is the first track on the album Jim from a band from Ft. Worth called Left Arm Tan. The song caught my attention when I was crashing through the always-voluminous pile of review material stacked up on my desk in my cryptic filing system like a diorama of city skyscrapers. As I said in my review of the song, when it starts out, it really doesn’t reel you in. Left Arm Tan has a polished, mainstream sound, and the lyrics begin with nostalgia about childhood, and you want to roll your eyes and say, “here we go with the same old mainstream formula.” But “Wish” is so much more.


Left Arm Tan
There is an alarming trend in the American culture right now. People are ashamed of who they are. People are embarrassed to be “normal”. Everyone wants to have a “kick ass” life. But average people are the majority; that’s what makes them average. Modern-day mainstream music is fueling a trend of people wanting to be something that they are not, instead of being thankful for who they are.

The majority of music coming from the super-genres of rap and country these days seems to be based on creating a vicarious outlook on a life that people don’t lead, instead of speaking about things that people can identify with. In an attempt to not want to feel normal, or escape mundanity, people consume songs full of country platitudes and laundry lists of things that are easily-identifiable as “country” instead of songs that actually try to say something meaningful and speak to them on a personal level. And the relationship between many country stars and their fans is one of worship instead of camaraderie. There is a sense of envy that permeates the whole performing/listening process. They look down from their pedestal, you look up at them.

“Wish” is the antidote to all of this nonsense.

Great songwriting has the ability to speak to the multitudes by being mutable to the human experience. By expressing an eternal theme of the human condition, a great song can speak to every individual like it was written just for them, making the experience that more intimate, touching one person in a completely different way than it may touch another. “Wish” touched me. It made me appreciate that envy is a trait that keeps us down, keeps us out of touch with ourselves, and that in EVERY life, no matter how normal or mundane it is, there is beauty. I didn’t just simply enjoy “Wish” from a sonic level, though in that regard it is a great song too, but it made me think about life from a perspective that I have never thought about it from before.

And I don’t mean to just harp on this one Left Arm Tan song and ignore the rest. All the songs on Jim are worth your time; I’m just afraid of diminishing the wisdom and depth of “Wish” by talking about it in the context of anything else. It is a one of a kind song. It is amazing. Anybody who tells you there’s no more good ideas for songs, that it’s all been done, this is proof they’re wrong, and that the talent evaluation process in American music is broken, because “Wish” should be a mega hit.

Once again, because of the strength of 2010's music, Jayke Orvis and all the other Song of the Year candidates get screwed. But just like with the Albums of the Year, fans for “Wish” turned out in greater numbers, aside from my own personal feelings.

I know I’ll get a lot of comments saying, “Cool Trig, not really my speed but I appreciate your passion.” Or “Sounds like everything else on the radio to me.” Or people will not say anything. But if you really listen, let the song unfold and get the meaning, it just might change your life.

- Saving Country Music


"Left Arm Tan has a hit with "Wish""

I normally don’t do individual song reviews, but I’m making an exception.

I get many requests for reviews and many get turned away, many for being too mainstream. Not that I have problems with a more accessible sound if the music is still good, but my charter is to work around the edges and find the gems that the other media outlets gloss over. In the case of a band out of Ft Worth named Left Arm Tan and specifically their song “Wish,” the sound may be mainstream, but the message is right down my alley.

The song starts off with reminiscent lyrics about youth and you think “oh here we go again with the same old formula,” but as it progresses, “Wish” reveals itself as a wise, well-written, and poignant song. With the chorus, “Well I wish I wish I was me, instead of wishing I was someone I will never be,” the song hits on a theme I have discussed here often, but has never been put to song so well.

I think it is important when we talk about saving country music, that we don’t work from a position of envy. In truth the joke is on them. They may have the big money, the control of the radio stations and the media. But we have each other, and true themes mined from real life experiences. Let them have their fake world, we have real music.

Yes, this song probably curried my favor with the line:

“Well I see them up there receiving the Grammy award
Then I hear them sing live, their tune is flat as a board
Well I can’t understand not a word of their songs
I keep thinking someone might bang a gong.

But this isn’t necessarily an anti-Nashville song, it is more about the singer realizing that he shouldn’t be envying people living fake lives when he has something true already. The way the song works is brilliant, and the arrangement and production is superb.

Not every obscure independent/underground country band deserves a big break just because they try hard and are talented. But “Wish” delivers accessibility without sacrificing soul, and should deliver them a hit worthy of any country station’s rotation.

Two guns up!

- Saving Country Music - www.savingcountrymusic.com


"Six New Albums from Local Bands that are worth a listen"

Left Arm Tan, Jim

From the opening notes of this Fort Worth's foursome's freshman full-length, you can see the prairie dust whistling past an open car window as it blasts down a wide-open highway. It's modern country music, sure, but the kind that understands that gloss is useless. Vocalist/guitarist Troy Austin, drummer Tim Manders, bassist Kirk Richardson and guitarist/keyboardist Daniel Hines collaborate on the songwriting, which would be right at home in heavy rotation on CMT. Proceeds from each CD sale "buys a child a pair of shoes through [North Carolina-based charity] Samaritan's Feet," according to Hines. (www.reverbnation.com/leftarmtan)
- Fort Worth Star Telegram - dfw.com


Discography

Alticana - February 26, 2013
Thurm - released February 2012.
Jim - released May 2010.
Singles - Ghost of Lila Pearl, Roads, Wish
Listen here: http://www.reverbnation.com/artist/artist_songs/541469

Photos

Bio

Left Arm Tan

On that afternoon drive down a two lane highway our thoughts meander…to sunny days, loves lost, heartache and reclamation.  Left Arm Tan writes the soundtrack to this uniquely American wanderlust experience. 

Hailing from Fort Worth, Texas, LAT pens critically acclaimed songs that feel equally at home among city skylines and old country roads.   Blending Triple AAA, Americana and Alt-Country, LAT has a “twangy, almost mystical romanticism.” (No Depression)

LAT’s fourth release, Lorene, is a 16 song epic (release date April 2016).  Produced by Salim Nourallah (Old 97’s, Damnwells), Lorene examines a cross-section of American life – broken relationships, unrequited love, heartache and hope.  The album’s eclectic blend of featured guests, including Texas legend Walt Wilkins and the Old 97’s Ken Bethea, exemplifies LAT’s genre defying approach to their craft.  Additional guests include John Ginty (Jewel, Tift Merrit), Milo Deering (Don Henley) and Becky Middleton.

LAT released their first CD, Jim, in 2010 and the opening track Wish quickly won Song of the Year from Saving Country Music.  Their follow up EP Thurm established them as a band to watch.  But it was 2013’s release, Alticana, that established Left Arm Tan as the very definition of Americana meets Alt-Country.  Described by Routes and Branches as "nothing less than one of the brightest, most tuneful albums of 2013,” LAT is clearly on the radar of music enthusiasts.

LAT is comprised of Troy Austin (vocals, guitar), Daniel Hines (guitar, vocals), Brian Lee (vocals, keys), Jeff Scroggins (bass, vocals) and Tim Manders (drums, vocals).  Together they focus on authenticity above all else – baring their souls as they create a crackling, guitar driven sound with soaring harmonies.

LAT will be touring in the US during 2016.  For more information contact booking@leftarmtan.com