Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Like Margo Price, Alex Caress, the lead singer of Little Bandit, has been playing in a rotating cast of East Nashville bands and touring outfits for roughly the past decade. His group’s formal debut, Breakfast Alone, recorded with a band of local aces like Kevin Black and Luke Schneider, is an impressive set of burlesque country and graceful roots-pop.
Caress, who plays keyboards, explores the inner workings of his adopted hometown throughout this ornate collection of 11 songs, bemoaning its dispiriting power structures (“Money”), trying in vain to escape its endless heatwaves (“Sinking”), and paying bittersweet tribute to its ever-changing scenery (“Nashville”).
Caress spends most of the record, however, in typical country music fashion: recalling old flames and bemoaning a complete lack of present romance, almost always with a drink in hand. Lead single “Bed of Bad Luck” puts it best, transforming the chorus of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” into a communal celebration of sleeping alone against one’s will. Elsewhere, with a delivery that mixes Roy Orbison-inspired emotive crooning with sardonic kiss offs that recall Father John Misty and Harry Nilsson, Caress channels his solitary, booze-filled habits over a campy honky-tonk rhythm (“Drinkin’ At The Bar”) and seeks after a “special kind of love” on the mid-tempo weeper “Comfort Inn.”
On their debut album, Little Bandit show that in country music, dry sarcasm and irony can go hand in hand with old-fashioned heartbreak.