This is the follow up to the 2005 7 track ep 'Lovers, Losers, Liars' praised in Whisperin' & Hollerin' for its "late night bourbon soaked feel".
Pretend To Believe is an album of well crafted songs with a distinctive twang although you would hesitate to label it as Alt.Country - Val Esway is clearly aware of the dilemma of where to place it and she calls the sound self deprecatingly as 'Ameri....kinda' .
The title of one track - Lowdown Lonesome Lovesick Blues (also on their ep) - sums up the themes in all eleven tunes. Each deals with some aspect of the perennial problems of love and loss while managing to steer clear of maudlin sentimentality. The mood is one of disillusionment rather than despair.
Only the final track - Wake Up Little Maggie - sounds genuinely subdued. This song features a fine vocal performance with minimalist acoustic guitar backing. More in this vein would have given the collection a little more variety and depth.
All the other tracks deploy the resources of the full band ,El Mirage, with lap steel and electric guitars to the fore. The backing is a little too perky at times as on the tale of heavy bedtime drinking on Whiskey Lullaby which doesn't really tally with the late night blues of the lyrics.
More convincing is the tongue in cheek 'Sweet Thing' where ,for once, a relationship is still intact but doomed all the same by a fatalistic sense that such good things don't last - "I think we better stop before the trouble even starts".
Another high point is on Bitter Tears which features great vocals reminiscent of the languid melancholy of Patsy Cline.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
All in all it's a smooth, bright, wholesome album that's easy to like although I can't help thinking that it could have been so much more memorable if they'd had the courage to cast some darker shadows.Â Â Â