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Dan Layus

Dangerous Things – 2016 (Plated)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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CDs by Dan Layus

The solo debut of Augustana front man Dan Layus is a mix of country, folk and the pop/rock associated with his former band. The effectively gloomy tone is kicked off in the opening title track ("I only got one life to live/And I ain't about to waste it/I'll have plenty of time to waste when I'm dead"), which prominently features the pedal steel guitar of Dan Dugmore. The equally morose "Driveway" is a ballad that examines the complexities of a once satisfying relationship that has stagnated ("Can't bear to leave, can't stand to stay/So I'm just sitting here, parked in the driveway").

The folksy acoustic ballad "Enough For You" has Layus confronting his insecurities ("The songs I write don't ever sound the way that I want/And I feel like I'm a joke/I wish I was cool like the Stones"), while similarly "Only Gets Darker" focuses on personal failings ("I started off green and I quickly turned blue/Made a fool of myself, made a mess out of you").

One of the strongest tracks is the closing piano driven ballad "The Nightbird" ("Won't somebody help me/I'm looking for a friend/When the sun comes up/It starts all over again") which recalls Randy Newman. "Call Me When You Get There" and "You Can Have Mine," co-written with pop producer/composer Emily Wright (Owl City, Britney Spears) also are highlights.

Co-produced by Layus with Dan Egan and Brandon Metcalf, the musicianship is stellar throughout with Layus' strong vocals nicely supported by Dugmore's pedal steel guitar along with the fiddles of Kelly Aus and Anne Buckle and the smooth harmonies of the Secret Sisters. "Dangerous Things" is an impressive solo debut with not only alt-country, but with indie folk/pop appeal.