Luke Rathbone - I Can Be One & Dog Years

by James Bray Rating:7 Release Date:2011-03-07

Luke Rathbone is another rising star on the burgeoning American folk-rock scene. Rathbone is originally from small-town New England, but like so many other young artists he moved to New York at 18 to make it in the music industry. At 22, he is taking the unorthodox move of releasing a double EP, which is comprised of Dog Years and I Can Be One.

Dog Years starts out with wide-eyed, exuberant folk-rock. Rathbone plays and sings well, although at times the vocal delivery feels a little too Dylan inflected. The tracks are immediately accessible and recognisable because Rathbone is adept at writing melodic, orthodox folk songs. Although Dog Years can feel a little derivative, the music is still good, and the competent production makes Rathbone sound like he's already a part of big time Americana.

The influence of Bob Dylan is ever present, and this is no bad thing for a young songwriter, but the problem is that Rathbone seems to be in thrall to the Dylan myth; moving to New York in his teens to sleep on couches and write songs... However, at times, it can feel like folk's legacy is stopping Rathbone from finding his own voice.
Once you get to know the songs, Dylan's presence becomes less pervasive and Rathbone demonstrates his musical ability in all permutations of folk-rock. The I Can be One EP is distinct in its more melancholic feel, and it's dominated by sweeping, piano-led ballads, with the title track and 'Solon Town' being stand-out tracks.

Overall, what separates Luke Rathbone from the rest of the folk scene rabble is his charisma as a performer, and his gift for songwriting. In its musical and stylistic diversity this collection demonstrates a real talent. What Rathbone lacks is his own distinctive style, voice and aesthetic. I originally thought that marketing this release as a double EP rather than a single album, was probably a means of emphasising Rathbone's status as an indie-fledgling ; now, I'd say it's because he's just not quite ready for his debut LP.

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