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Darrin Stout and the Starlighters
Darrin Stout and the Starlighters

Roots music has never had a hard time being heartfelt, accessible, and real. But, until recently, it has had a hard time being popular. That may change with the self-titled debut by Darrin Stout and The Starlighters. This eponymous collection of 11 original tunes and one cover has what it takes to top the charts.

The musical idioms are time-honored; the plaintive stroll of "Aching in My Heart" is Elvis, Scotty, and Bill incarnate, and the railway-paced "Rollin' Down the Highway" evokes the drive of Johnny Burnette. Layering the guitar and vocal tracks (both played by Stout) in the studio leave these and other songs feeling a bit antiseptic on a modern hi-fi, but through the in-dash speaker of a '57 Bel Air, the sound is just right.

The songs are like a '50s recap: familiar in theme, but contextualized for the modern world. The uncharacteristically clean vocal tracks give each song sing-along appeal, especially upbeat boppers "In My Arms" and "Wasting Your Time." The slow-dance "Angel to Me" evokes images of saddle shoes and sweaty palms, an innocent pledge that hearkens back to an innocent time. Even the beginnings of surf music are remembered in "Come Back to Me", a gentle lullaby that bats bedroom eyes at Santo and Johnny and pulls a come-hither finger from Dick Dale's fretboard.

The more you listen to these songs, the more you want to curl up with them, flip through pictures from your high school yearbook, and wear Stout's letter sweater every day. Indulge.

—Dante Murphy

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