It seems the artistic spirit is never satisfied, and Kevin Costner is the latest in the long line of actor-turned-singers. And, like most, he relies on actual musicians to do most of the work. Although Costner takes front man status, longtime friend/musician/songwriter John Coinman is clearly the mastermind behind this debut, contributing to the songs, production and apparently even the band's name (Modern West is also part of the title to Coinman's 2007 solo release).
The band's debut borrows more from rootsy Americana rockers like John Mellencamp and Bruce Springsteen than any of country music's famous faces. Although Costner's raspy vocal sometimes manages to fit nicely within the folk-rock genre, they are mostly too thin and unconvincing. Several times the lead vocals seem drowned out by the backing band (one of the few solid highlights).
The songs themselves need about as much work as Costner's vocals. Five Minutes from America and Down in Nogales, sound like they were stolen from troubadour Mellencamp's throwaway pile, while it's pretty unbelievable to hear a mega-successful actor/film producer sing, "All I got's this little trailer in the corner of my fancy sandy lot" on Gotta Get Away. The rest of album contains some interesting lyrical imagery, but lacks overall meaning behind the rhymes.
Costner and Modern West have given an earnest shot at the folk-rock genre, but if you are looking for the real deal, stick with artists like Mellencamp, Petty and Springsteen.