Thereâ€™s something exciting happening in Los Angeles; singer/songwriters like Bleu and Adam Marsland are breaking out once again, but instead of rolling down from the communal experience of the canyon, theyâ€™re holing up in homes and hobby studios. Such was the inspiration for former Broken West guitarist/vocalist Ross Flournoy, whose relocation to Pasadena after a band breakup severed his daily musical connection, and left him casting about for direction. Amid writerâ€™s block and a daily beer habit, his lifesaver was an NPR song competition that afforded only a weekend to write, record and submit a song. The external pressure turned out to be just what he needed, documenting his denial, admission, inventory, acceptance and recovery as a songwriter in â€œUnder the Gun.â€ With one under his belt, dozens more tumbled forth, some written alone, some with Adam Vine.
Apex Minor on record â€“ Flournoy and former bandmate Brian Whelan, along with help from Andy Creighton, Derek Brown, Rob Douglass and Dan Iead â€“ is reminiscent of Broken West, similarly propulsive and tuneful, but warmer and looser. The album begins at Flournoyâ€™s nadir, looking up from the bottom of a half-drunk mason jar in â€œSouthern Decline.â€ Producer Dan Long layers on buzzing rhythm guitars, demonstrating just how deeply Flournoy was buried in depression. His salvation as a songwriter leads to emotional re-emergence, self-awareness and on â€œI Know These Waters Well,â€ the twelfth-step desire to pass along new found wisdom. The album alternates rave-ups and soulful ballads, with Flournoyâ€™s voice particularly expressive on the latter. Despite the detour, Apex Manor marks a terrific new phase, predicted by the Broken West, but ignited by a fresh start. [Â©2011 hyperbolium dot com]