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    It’s more than likely Small Time Napoleon won’t become your favorite band on first listen. But like a mysterious stranger, you might just find their intoxicating blend of Americana Folk, Country Western and Swing Jazz Rhythms swirling ‘round your head as you instinctively follow the sound. Instantly attractive because they’re more than a band applying the near-scientific method of Roots Rock hit-making, these guys don’t just wear the clothes. Their influences are vast, and you may be initially reminded of Dylan, Carl Perkins or The Band. And infatuation is similarly predictable in their earnest appreciation of bygone days when honesty didn’t deserve ovation and songs of real love weren’t devoid of true emotion to the point of cynical irony.

    Friday night’s Clifton Center Release Party for debut long-player "Cloud Machine" was the flashpoint of their first few years spent obsessively refining their exact vision of an aural invitation to leave behind the nervous dash, headlong into the future. It wouldn’t quite seem fitting for such a passionate chorale to seek fame’s instant spoils, forsaking the scent of dew-damp flowers along the way.  This feels more like a shared personal journey.

    So, instead of retracing the oft-trodden path of bands more recognizable by a poorly disguised recycling of influences, STN have fashioned not merely a sound, but an aesthetic all their own.  One which founding Small Timers, Dan Hardin and Jeff Thomas have brought to life through songs repurposing the wanderlust, desolation and bended-knee earnestness of Townes Van Zandt with the genre-defiant, harmonic dissonance of Tom Waits as the beating-heart upon it’s sleeve. The pulse of which varies from metronomic Americana to skipped-beat Jazz, each masterfully applied by drummer Ryan Fowler and bassist Dave Neill. In full swing, it’s evident you’ve been let in on sonic conversations about digging deeper than music making terra firma in exploration of artistry’s molten core. It’s an admirably unique victory for a band so relatively young to clear a fork in the road of musical alchemy in a place where so many promising bands disappear into anonymity. Countless acts recognizable not for creation, but as mass-production brake-downs along the way.

    This is, perhaps, the most endearing allure of one of Louisville music’s best new ambassadors. The aforementioned genres of Folk, Jazz and Electrified Country Western stand monolithic in the canon of American music. Thus, unique artistry is challenging not only in escaping the shadow of the names tattooed upon the hearts of aficionados, but in planting firm at that fork in the road a sign which bears your name. This is the sound of a band so connected in vision and so united upon it’s path, that they come off sounding more like they’ve been playing together for decades. The release of "Cloud Machine" marks the beginning this band’s journey upon a path paved for themselves. It will no doubt be hell of a ride as they pursue their goal of realizing decades together along that path. And at that time, don’t be surprised if the sign at this particular stretch still reads Small Time Napoleon Way. 

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    About Johnny Gutterman

    Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground. A Drop of Rain. The Doe Hoof and the Rabbit Paw. Just like you....... Louisville Born. Kentucky Proud writer/photographer. 1/2 of First Light Image Photography. www.firstlightimage.net

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