Marc Miner does what he does out of love. He’s not destined to be country music’s next Chris Stapleton and doesn’t want to be. He’s following his own songwriting and musical path. There is an avenue open for him into the mainstream spotlight thanks to his wont for big-time choruses, perhaps but Miner will never back off telling his stories in a way he sees fit rather than tailoring his tales for mass appeal. The eleven songs included in Marc Miner’s Last Heroes never duck and dodge their potential for leaving an impact. Miner doesn’t land glancing blows; each song packs a wallop.
“Sweet Revenge” will knock some listeners back in their heels. Miner definitely goes all out with the song’s violent, passionate lyrics and it’s an especially artful touch in the way that he lowballs the words instead of playing up its murderous action. Miner indulges a number of affectations, but he’s never hammy. The tolling bell at the song’s opening is a nice, albeit minor, touch. “Nicki & Bob” is a very different song. It’s a far sturdier performance and the guitar presence throughout the song has a defining effect on the track’s direction. The emphatic phrasing of the lead guitar work heard near the song’s end is particularly tasty.
The pedal steel and harmonica strands threaded through “Hero of Laredo” fill the cut out with abundant color. It’s a straightforward arrangement, for sure, built around a full-on acoustic shuffle that pulls you along. It has one of the album’s best choruses paired with the top-notch verses and Miner finds a near-perfect balance between the instruments and lyrics. Rousing backing vocals punctuate the chorus for “Heavy Bones” and there’s some piercing blues lead guitar grabbing your attention near the song’s end. Miner puts a little extra oomph into his vocals and it comes off convincing.
“Bible & Rifle” has a bit of problematic language, but it’s otherwise seemingly built as a stab toward being a modern alt-country anthem. Careful listening, however, reveals surprising nuance. It’s an emphatic performance, however, despite bludgeoning the audience rather than relying on a more musical swing. He locks into a headlong plunge forward with the track “Home Ain’t No Place for Me” and the organ underpinning the song’s shuffle-like bounce helps the cut burn a little brighter. Miner shakes up his vocal approach several times over the course of Last Heroes and adopts mannerisms for this track that accentuate rather than cheaper its stylistic ambitions.
“Cheer Up ‘Cause I’m Leaving” shares the same essential temperament as the aforementioned song. The painted swing of the song physically engages you without ever sounding too forceful; Miner and his bandmates find the right measure from the first. Its note of leave-taking makes it a perfect finale for Marc Minser’s second album and ends Last Heroes with a light note of sophistication that suggests the European-based singer-songwriter will continue growing with future releases. “Cheer Up ‘Cause I’m Leaving” suggests this is a songwriter capable of writing about familiar agonies from new angles and other songs on the collection show evidence of this as well. The future’s bright for Marc Miner’s art. Kim Muncie