Unfortunate Casino

[Human Nature Music]

Since he burst on the scene in the early ’70s as one-third of the folk-rock hit machine America, Gerry Beckley has evolved into an accomplished pop tunesmith who plays to his strengths: catchy melodicism and an easy lyrical intimacy. His latest effort is a low-key collection highlighted by the bouncy title tune, with rueful observations like “I’m walking by a pool in Vegas, I see them on a slippery slide/They try to lose it all in stages, they try and make it worth the ride.” The brooding “Dark River” combines intertwining vocals and ambient guitars to achieve a darker outlook, but it’s the exception here. Beckley’s voice has retained the youthfulness of his chart-topping days, and his relentlessly hook-filled arrangements here recall the brighter moments of popmeisters like Emitt Rhodes and Marshall Crenshaw. Beckley reminds us at times on Unfortunate Casino that the house almost always wins, but he beats the odds himself with this uplifting collection of sunny tunes. –Bob Cannon

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