On Sweet Freedom
, Luke Austin Daugherty has crafted a California-via-Indiana folk record that echoes Jack Johnson, Steve Forbert and Dylan. He asks larger-than-our-life questions, continually searching for hope.
His direct, intelligent songs are dressed with acoustic guitars, wisely-placed keyboards, a nimble snare, fiddle and pedal steel flourishes.
Highlights include "Attica Girl," on which a Dylan-esque "Like a Rolling Stone" Hammond B3 organ carries the melody, and "Hello America," on which Daugherty sings of an immigrant discovering the country against plaintive fiddles and a simple backbeat.
"Chapter Five" is a Forbert-sounding (that's a good thing) tune while "Chicago For the First Time Again" tells of a small town man plopped into the Windy City. A bit of a rock rumbler doesn't come until near the end, with "Trying Time Blues." It's worth the wait, and in step with the rest of the record.
The decidedly and intentionally (I have to believe) homemade packaging features written-in-faux-pencil liner notes and hand-drawn artwork in a Xerox-style wrap. Daugherty and the album are unique. And despite the low-key look, there's definitely an Americana glow once you get inside.