With the release of their excellent Westernaire, Milton Mapes' record label also reissued their debut EP, with two bonus tracks. Westernaire, their debut full-length, is an overwhelming album of moving, deep songs that mix the atmosphere of bands like Radiohead and temper it with a songwriting style that's not been seen since the heydey of Springsteen. (Yes, it's thatgood.) The State Line obviously stands in contrast, and though it's nowhere near as grand as Westernaire. But don't worry; The State Line is an interesting document of a young band, and it certainly provides a nice little insight into Greg Vanderpool's developing talent.
In many ways, The State Line is exactly what you'd expect from a debut record, especially considering the overwhelming brilliance of the follow-up record. The State Line is a rough, raw recording, with only the smallest hints of what they would deliver with Westernaire. The overwhelming atmosphere mixed with country twang and singer/songwriter brilliance that was so impressive isn't quite as developed here, but Vanderpool and company certainly did start off strong. Westernaire proves that they were able to deliver on the promises and hints that they dropped on here.
That's not to say that The State Line isn't charming. In fact, it's a really wonderful little record. It's all so fascinating, hearing Vanderpool's budding songscraft. While "Down By You" is a discordant little rocker (and perhaps the record's only true weak spot), for the most part The State Line is a collection of singer-songwriter country rock that occasionally is similar to Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen, though it's obvious that they owe a little bit to alt.country bands such as Old 97s, especially on songs like "The Elusive Goldmine." Personally, I'm really impressed most by "Lubbock," because it's the first song that I've ever heard about the city that truly captures the hopelessness of a windy winter day in that dusty West Texas town.
While the world should certainly pay attention to Milton Mapes' Westernaire, it's nice to go back and look and see where they came from. A charming little record from a band who have just begun to make waves. The State Line is a wonderful little compendium to this year's best record, and is a nice little record to boot.