In days past, country singers essaying an old-fashioned bildungsroman might have included references to alcohol or to run-ins with law enforcement—at the extreme, to life in prison without parole. The 19-year-old Blaine Larsen seems aware of country’s subcultural life; he joins the circus, gets away to Mexico, which he calls “the land of the Aztec sun,” and seems plenty knowledgeable about high school class divisions between jocks and stoners. Still, he gets the basics from his caring stepfather, who in “The Best Man” teaches him “how to drive a nail and build a go-kart.” And later on he offers his own sage advice on women: “Fish bite or they don’t/But if you’re talking they won’t.”
Larsen sings in a supple and utterly confident baritone, and as a young careerist (he wrote or co-wrote nearly all these songs) he’s relaxed, pulling in old reprobate Merle Haggard to guest on one, and not even troubled by the “guy with no talent by the girl with no clothes” down in Cozumel he sees on television. Only the hit “How Do You Get That Lonely” lacks the grit that separates the suicide victim of the song from the up-and-comers of this world.