Promising, early Wilco-style alt-country via Spain and Majorca – includes pedal steel, organ and songs about roadside bars.
‘TransAm’ is the second solo album from Majorca-based, Spanish singer-songwriter, Toni Monserrat, and arrives five years after his debut, 38 Bucks. It’s also only the second LP he’s made singing in English.
“I’m not singing in English now just to attract a wider audience – although that would be nice,” he says. “I can project the feelings of more characters in more settings, which, of course, as a lyricist is always a welcome and liberating opportunity. Also, for people who don’t understand English, imagine if they ever understood even just a few words thanks to my singing. The satisfaction would be two-fold.”
The record was recorded at his home studio in spring 2021. It’s a loose concept album about travelling in the American West, but Monserrat, who was the frontman of Spanish bands Murder In The Barn and Deep South, insists it’s not a love letter to the open roads of that part of US, but rather a ‘musical brochure’ about somewhere that he believes too few Europeans and Mallorquin people ever get the opportunity to experience.
“Even if the record is named after a famous American automobile and I have a speedometer on the cover, the themes can be universal, because wherever we are we all have the same emotions – good and bad,” he says.
The road trip starts with ‘10 Days In Brooklyn’ – a strong, infectious power-pop song with pedal steel by Joe Harvey-Whyte (The Hanging Stars) that has the feel of ‘A.M.’-era Wilco – a lot of the album sounds like that record, which is obviously a good thing.
‘TransAm’ is raw and rough-hewn and full of some killer melodies – ‘Collision Course’ is also vintage Wilco-esque, with a harmonica, organ and a lyric that mentions roadside bars.
Nashville guitarist, Tim Easton, adds some tasty licks and flourishes to ‘Middle of Things’, which comes across like Dean Wareham (Galaxie 500, Luna) doing Spanish-Americana, and he also crops up on the last song, country-rocker ‘Too Many Sides.’
‘Comin’ Over’ – featuring Harvey-Whyte – is nicely twangy, while the soul-searching and anthemic country-folk ballad, ‘(Late Night Lolitas) and Frost Margaritas’ has a chorus that Shane MacGowan would give what’s left of his eye teeth to have written.
This is great, old-fashioned, ragged alt-country – best listened to while driving a beat-up car on dusty highways, while occasionally stopping at gas stations, diners and drinking holes.
Who would’ve thought that one of the strongest Americana albums of the past few months would’ve come from Majorca?
Monserrat may insist that he’s not started singing in English for commercial reasons, but, on the strength of ‘TransAm’, it’s certainly not going to hurt his career. His journey to a wider audience could be a lot quicker than he thinks.