Dirtminers' architect and front man Raph Worrick calls his band's American Typewriter "11-odd songs from a Vermontario carny." The album is draped in modern, slightly askew Americana, and throughout, Worrick comes across as a mountain boy trying his best at delicate pop.
Although plagued by an uncertainty of direction, the disc has a loose, country feel that nonetheless sounds pleasant. Things start strong with "Sweet Loneliness," which features Indian scales played over rock changes and percolating percussion. By the time the vocals enter, it's as if you've wandered into a Mark Knopfler album. This makes the subsequent track - the British-skiffle-sounding "Empty Boys and Girls" - sound that much more offbeat.
"Previously Loved" could be a Roy Orbison B-side; a mandolin has rarely melded with surf-twang guitar so well. The upbeat takes a backseat with "Funeral," however. The song features a chorus that asks, "Who goes to the funeral of the gravedigger's mother?" - not exactly a romp in the sunshine.
An admiration for Canadian roots-rockers Tragically Hip comes through loud and clear on "My Lovely Assistant," while "Right Between the Eyes" stands out only for a brief guitar solo from Worrick.
The crackling "Coffee All Morning" contains the most memorable hooks on the CD, with a chorus that champions "beer all afternoon." But with this inspired ode to caffeine and alcohol as the album's centerpiece, the rest of the tunes seem to drag a bit.
Still, Matt Rogalsky's crucial bass work keeps things lively, especially on the leisurely ballad "Flying Girl." The song would sound perfect as a late-night obscurity played on a country music station; its screwball sincerity becomes even more endearing with repeated listens.
The real carny trick comes on the title track, which happens to be the second-to-last tune on the album. It features the first real riff of the disc, all blazing rock fire. It had me scratching my head wondering where the band had been for the past 45 minutes.
The Dirtminers have some great ideas and solid musicians, but the band has yet to embrace its full potential. Maybe next time.