It doesn’t take a detective to realise that Rainn Byrns’ seminal album ‘New In Town’ is going to tell the story of a boy who has never quite settled.
Favourably jumping from place to place (deciding eventually to wax about his spectral existence on the record), it’s clear the Texas-born, Swindon bred and now South London-dwelling musician has always felt like an outsider; and ‘New In Town’ abridges his life’s tale into a winding passage comprised of casual Americana, bootstrap blues and a faint note of nu-psychedelia.
Byrns’ homegrown sound is quickly recognisable. His quietly nasal talk-singing and quaint whistling on closer ‘Leaving Town’ sees him chat endlessly about his relationship with his Texan home, what the word ‘home’ even means, and his formative move across the Atlantic. He continually airs minor frustrations with an aura of ease- finding resolve on ‘Big’: “it’ll be alright with a good night’s sleep,” and sharing excitement for growing older in ‘Big Boy Boots’. Byrns’ takes the simple idea of sharing seismic changes in personal life and neatly packages these sprawling, regularly-tapped themes into lo-fi county fair show tunes.
Flecks of a young Neil Young are scattered in his earnest songwriting, surmised in the chorus of ‘Never Ending Story’: “I don’t recognise the guy trapped in the mirror stood before me / What’s the story? / Never mind, it will just bore me.” Byrns is consciously self-deprecating, willingly tapping into the mediocre moments of his every day to appear tender and twee. Country ballad ‘Homeward Bound’ asks the question ‘what do we truly consider our home?’. Is it a place of birth or a place that has captured you emotionally? Byrns’ simple answer is Texas. But lyrically, he is torn between catharsis and stasis — does he miss his southern comforts or does he hate the small-town atmosphere where “nothing changes at all”? This is an example of Byrns tapping into familiar idiosyncrasies, and using emotionally intelligent lyricism to make each line both personable, and relatable.
The most memorable moments in ‘New In Town’ are found in Byrns’ bleak honesty. On ‘I’m Her Man’ he paints a detailed picture of why his relationship isn’t working, and on ‘House’, we imagine that same lover leaving him for another. The record is a delicate soirée that doles out a very distinct facet of Byrns’ abilities- whimsical acoustic-driven songcraft that conjures images of rocking chair porch-lounging, and over-decorated dining tables brimming with Southern food.
If the mission was to sprinkle a little bit of Texan culture in Peckham, he has done remarkably well. Although the record occasionally falls in the familiar trappings of droll mid-tempo Americana, ‘New In Town’ is a strong outing for a young artist that serves as an entrée to greater future undertakings.
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