(AP) -- Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, "Dragons" (Thirty Tigers)
Drew Holcomb has slotted himself as the dad next door type, one who writes love songs to his children and wife and who takes an unassuming stance on the world around him. It's an identity that suits him and one that he continues to embrace on his band's newest album, "Dragons."
While most of the album's tracks are in the same vein as Holcomb and the Neighbors' previous work, the songs "Family" and "End of the World" are a departure as they blend the band's typical Americana sound with pop influences.
It especially works in "End of the World," a song that is surprisingly upbeat despite its title. Holcomb is tongue-in-cheek as he encourages people to let go and "smoke 'em if you got 'em," rather than dwell in the world's current state of affairs. The carefree nature of a song is a welcome escape from reality.
The rest of the album adheres to Holcomb's usual sincerity. And while this sincerity is what has attracted much of his fan base, the line he treads is a fine one. While heartfelt, there are times his songs border cheesy in their earnestness.
"See the World," which features his wife Ellie, is a song about the excitement of seeing the world through his child's eyes. It has touching moments, but there are lines that come across as cliche (such as his Peter Pan reference). Similarly, while the sentiment is sweet in "Make It Look So Easy," it sounds like a song that's been written too many times already.
Holcomb shines the brightest on songs that combine his Nashville blues and country roots with vulnerable lyrics such as the title track and "You Never Leave My Heart." They both tap into the storytelling tradition of folk music with "Dragons" giving a redemptive chorus in which his grandfather encourages him to "take a few chances/a few worthy romances/go swimming in the ocean on New Year's Day." "You Never Leave My Heart" gives a retrospective look at memories surrounding the death of Holcomb's brother.
"Dragons" is an honest album and one that gives a window into the life of this dad next door -- a Nashville family man who acknowledges both the silver-linings and complexities of life.