Label: Paper Garden Records Release date: Out Now! Website: Peasant on MySpace Buy: Ama Peasant, the soulful balladeer who sits halfway between Elliott Smith and Bon Iver is a curious case; he makes an album that is note perfect, and ticks all the boxes for what constitutes a decent indie folk singer. Yet something just doesn’t feel right about On the Ground. There appears to be something crudely calculating about Peasant (real name Damien DeRose), he seems well schooled in the history of popular mainstream folk, with the majority of On the Ground being uncomfortably familiar to the ear. The album is engaging, pleasant even, though as a body of work it leaves the listener feeling unsatisfied. I want to like this album, I want to fall in love with it because it should be my cup of tea, but for some reason I can’t. Certainly this makes the album hard to score; there is nothing particular to fault about On the Ground, from the comforting organic production, to Peasant’s delicate vocal melodies, everything is put together in a methodical fashion. ‘The Wind’ opens the album in that Country tinged Saddle Creek manner, with Peasant’s vocals airy and echoed, hanging tenderly over the track like a burlap sack caressing a picket fence. ‘Fine is Fine’ is a more orthodox folk song, traditional in the Newport sense, but I’m not enamored at this point, even when Peasant’s fingers quiver ever so lightly over the guitar strings on ‘Stop For Her’ where he somberly sings “I don’t want to be a burden / So let’s kiss until the morning”. I’m detached; the personal becomes oddly hard to relate to. Small town singer, the dreamer, the poet, the young man with a head full of ideas; the man carrying his worldly possessions over his shoulder in search of big city lights and likeminded individuals, its clichéd and done to death. ‘We’re Good’ suffers because it sounds so close to last year’s big thing Bon Iver. I imagine Peasant as a stereotype, wearing a thrift store flannel shirt, his facial hair stubbly, his eyes glazed, close to tears as he clears his throat and prepares to perform. There is a real sense of vagueness about these songs, with Peasant fumbling around in the dark, afraid to truly open up and stick his beating heart on the chopping block. Loss and break ups are addressed with all the strident wit of an emotionally drained camel hump. I guess you could say I’m fed up with the shortfalls of love being performed in such a banally dramatic fashion. Blood on the Tracks this ain’t. Peasant’s timid vocal style is charmless, the sadness insincere. Though when he ups the tempo and sings with a half moon smile on the looser, carefree ‘Those Days’ he appears to be finding his own voice, but all too often we are dragged through an introspective swamp of heart wrenching emotional sludge, with turgid lulls in between each bright spot. By the time ‘Impeccable Manners’ brings the album to a close, we still don’t really know much about Peasant. In his words he ponders “I am not sure if it makes any sense”. Rating: 5/10