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Ian Noe

Between the Country – 2019 (National Treasury)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by Ian Noe

Ian Noe sings like a man wise beyond his years. Like Bob Dylan, back when he also started out as a young man, Noe has a vocal tone that rings true like the voice of experience. Beginning with "Irene (Ravin' Bomb)," about woman saddled with a substance abuse problem that's out of control, Noe paints pictures you might wish you've never seen. Although musically folk-leaning, Noe is also relatively matter of fact - a little like a news reporter. "Dead on the River," plays out like a news report put to song, with the backing organ part acting as the lone mourner for these dead bodies found.

Sonically, Noe matches his old timey singing voice to various instrumental arrangements. "Barbara's Song" incorporates jangling electric guitar, while "Junk Town" finds Noe singing over a gently finger picked acoustic guitar. Noe writes about the poor, downtrodden and especially drug addicted with these 10 songs, like the narrator of an American tragedy. "Junk Town" is sung from the perspective of a man that wishes he could find a more hospitable place to live, and even though he knows there's a better life out there, he's resigned to eventually die right there.

Noe's music is about the America many of us may be afraid to admit exists. There are no feel good, happy endings contained within. Everybody has a story, and Noe believes there are sad stories rarely being told - especially by the shiny, happy Nashville country music establishment. Mainstream country can only see red dirt roads, sexy farmer's daughters and Southern Pride. Noe, instead, focuses on the near-lost-causes much easier to ignore.