Cale Tyson Credit: Melissa Fuller

In a recent interview with NPR Music, singer-songwriter Cale Tyson says the interest in country music he demonstrates on his new album, Careless Soul (At Last Records), turned out to be fleeting: now that he’s recorded it, he says, “What I’m finding is that I’m actually kinda going back to the indie-folk stuff that I grew up on, that I truly connected with first.” After getting his start in screamo punk bands in his native Texas—at which point he hated country—Tyson eventually got sucked into the music of Bright Eyes and decided to become a songwriter. He moved to Nashville, where he got hooked up with a pedal-steel player, and the songs on the new record embrace classic country themes—heartbreak, cheating, the loneliness of the road. Thanks to the production of Michael Rinne and the arrangements of Jordan Lehning, which blend woozy countrypolitan strings with soulful New Orleans brass, Tyson’s agile voice achieves a Zelig-like quality, suiting whatever struts behind him. Unfortunately, the genre templates are a more powerful force on this album than Tyson’s own songwriting, which is often threadbare. The strongest melodies sound like barely disguised retreads of old nuggets, whether by Patsy Cline (“Somebody Save Me” echoes “She’s Got You”), Sam Cooke (“Pain in My Heart” swipes from “Bring It On Home”), or Allen Toussaint (“Ain’t It Strange” sounds mysteriously similar to “Play Something Sweet”). Elsewhere he dabbles in gospel (“Easy”) and jacked-up honky-tonk (“Railroad Blues”), but as easy as the record goes down, it doesn’t reveal much about who Cale Tyson is.   v