Paupers Field, the debut album from Louisiana-born twenty year-old Dylan LeBlanc, is a solid and knowing release of country-tinged American folk which evidences great experience and maturity, especially from one so young.
The country-folk blend which LeBlanc rapidly proves himself youthful master of is affirmed right from the albums' opening; 'Low' brings together picked acoustic guitar, brushed drums and gentle country twinges of pedal steel guitar over which LeBlanc's soothing whispered vocals sensitively meander. Suggesting LeBlanc as something of a countrified John Mayer, love song 'Low' announces his talent for writing beautiful soothing music. Interspersing melancholic down-temp numbers with occasional more driven tracks such as the banjo-ridden 'If Time Was For Wasting', which sounds resemblance to a more delicate cross between The Thrills and Mumford & Sons, Paupers Field ebbs and flows with great emotion and precision.
Comparisons with and influence of the likes of Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes), Ryan Adams and Neil Young ooze throughout the album in every guise, from the gentle and meaningful 6/8 ballads 'Tuesday Night Rain' and 'On With The Night', to the intricately picked guitar which accompanies LeBlanc's heartfelt vocal throughout 'Emma Hartley', 'Ain't Too Good At Losing' and 'Death Of Outlaw Billy John'. The familiar storytelling nature of his lyrics also harks back to his main influences and the bluesy-folk roots of LeBlanc's style; so too the instrumentation, in particular the near-constant sounding of country-folk pedal steel guitar twinges and plucked banjo maintaining evidence of inspiration heavily rooted in Americana.
The highlights of Paupers Field are largely that which bring something else to the mix; the soothing backing vocals of Emmylou Harris in 'If The Creek Don't Rise', for example, an echoing and beautiful track which sounds great resemblance to Guillemots' powerful ballad 'If The World Ends'. 'If The Creek Don't Rise', in fact, is reason alone to give Paupers Field a listen. A gentle smooth string accompaniment brings another depth to 'Emma Hartley', and later similarly the strings that beautifully ooze throughout '5th Avenue Bar'. Whilst some tracks, for example 'On With The Night' are almost too laid back that they're borderline sluggish, they are contrasted by the likes of 'Changing Of The Seasons', which is a more up-tempo and perky number who's picked banjo part and driving percussion beat pushes the track forward.
All in all, Paupers Field is a sound debut showcasing a wealth of sensitivity and maturity, not only in Dylan LeBlanc's writing, but also in his wonderfully distinctive vocals.