Spooney, Whiskey in the Coffee (Independent)

Albert Marino would certainly not be the first modern folkie to enter the music through the songs of John Lennon and work his way backward through Dylan and Cohen and Waits, but few who do keep their pop sensibilities along the way. Spooney (the go-by of this Austin-via-Bucharest singer/songwriter) is a damn sight sunnier than the usual folksinger, and exponentially more so than any of the above dour idols. Even the circumstances behind this disc—musician comes to post-K New Orleans in order to help out, eventually records album with local mainstays, you know the drill—hasn’t damped his enthusiasm for life and love.

This doesn’t make the boho-chamber pop he arrives at less authentic; he’s just more Sam Phillips than Aimee Mann. Even when moodily picking through the pieces of his broken heart over some dream-pop chords in “Lover’s Toll”—casually dropping the line, “My friends are hooked on heroin” in the jaunty “Bathtub Gin,” or getting all torchy on the surprisingly emotional title track—Spooney seems a bit too fresh-faced to be world-weary. It turns out to be the source of much of his charm, and with Papa Grows Funk’s John Gros, Neville alumnus Shane Theriot, local session necessity Doug Belote and 3 Dolla Bill’s Allan Maxwell backing him up, he’s got the musical grounding to keep him from floating away in the ether. Indeed, “Gabriela” sounds like the modern standard zydeco’s been waiting for.