Alt-country is a tricky thing. At its best, it can be a whole new breed of Americana, uniting the original country/western sound with today’s indie rock (and skipping the homogenized ‘New Country’ on today’s charts). But at its worst, it can be self-indulgent, heaving, and even dull. Prosser (Eric Woodruff) has plumbed the heights – and depths – of alt-country, on his self-titled solo debut.
Formerly of Bellingham, Washington’s space-rockers Delay, geology major Eric Woodruff has certainly kept his feet on the ground with Prosser. But the Western Plains are big enough for all outdoors, and Woodruff shows his range, going from melancholy odes to sunny wonders, from simple acoustic folk to orchestral anthems and straight-up rock ‘n’ roll. The record even features two instrumental numbers, “The Path to a Field with a View of the City”, an excellent overture that’s actually probably better without any vocals, and the concluding “Summer Song 2”.
However, it is at the beginning where Prosser shines brightest, with album openers “A Worthy Seed” and “Summer Song 3”. “Seed” hits just the right alt-country tone, sad but not too sad, while remaining quite catchy (though lyrics like “find a wife, plant my seed” are a little creepy). “Summer Song 3” (by far the superior of the release’s three “Summer”s) is sadder, but more moving: a gripping piece of acoustic alt-singer/songwriting. Woodruff turns around and brightens things up with the next two tracks, “I Met a Girl” (the likely single) and “The Time Has Come”. Neither matches the two opening songs in quality, both being a little too bright, but they are certainly nice numbers, that showcase how just how far the man can go.
Unfortunately, from there Prosser seriously slips into a dragging, gratuitous tone, with such numbers as “Summer Song 1”, “State I’m In”, and the preachy “Kind Words”. This heaviness also burdens the too-reverbed vocals on “Today”, and all the moments that aren’t the big moments on the rocking “Get Gone”. The record also contains some interesting, but not yet perfected, musical journeys, such as the guitar-picking anthem “Everything I Do”, the almost prog-rock “Someday Soon”, and the well-rhythmed “Dwell”, which, with its overabundance of switches, unfortunately suffers from too much experimentation.
At fourteen songs, Prosser could really do with some editing. As his debut as Prosser, Eric Woodruff covers a lot of terrain: some of it well, some of it not so well, and some of it so-so. If he can keep from falling in love with his own sound, and keep up the tempo, Woodruff should be able to find a place in the alt-country world. But this is just a first step.