Label: Unsigned Release Date: Out Now The phrase singer/songwriter has acquired a pejorative sheen in recent years, thanks to the likes of James Blunt, James Morrison, etc.  Perhaps in an attempt to distance himself from that crowd, Portland based singer and songwriter (and music blogger) Brian Senesac has adopted the self-consciously hip moniker Jive White Boy.  And that last sentence contains just about all the information on him that I have managed to glean from a spot of googling, so let’s move swiftly on. The seven tracks that I am reviewing here can be downloaded for free from, streamed from his myspace page or, if you’re an old-fashioned sort, purchased in physical form from CD Baby.  It is unclear whether they constitute an EP, mini-album, demo recordings or simply everything he has recorded so far.  Certainly he appears to be unsigned at present (the endorsements listed on his myspace site include one from an A&R representative which concludes, “Look forward to hearing the full LP”). In a way, I hope that these are demos because while they have not been badly recorded – far from it, in fact – they have been arranged and performed in a way that does many of the songs a disservice.  For while Senesac is a decent singer and songwriter, the competent but generally plodding acoustic guitar which features throughout implies that he is a less than virtuoso musician.  And yet most of the songs also feature some lovely instrumentation (which I would guess was also played by Senesac) plus female backing vocals, all of which unfortunately tends to be buried way down in the mix.   It ends up sounding as if the acoustic guitar was originally intended solely as a guide track but was mistakenly left in the final mix. For example, ‘Slowly’ starts promisingly with a delicate guitar figure, but as the first verse starts the strumming breaks out too.  The chorus is brought to life by a beautiful quavering mandolin effect and some great female backing vocals which then take the lead on the following verse but for the remainder of the song that guitar just tramples over everything. Previous reviews have compared his music to artists as diverse as Bright Eyes, The Shins, Bon Iver and even Counting Crows.  For my money, the title track sounds more like Portland’s answer to Frightened Rabbit (albeit with fewer expletives) while ‘The Great Depression’ – the pick of the bunch - could be a stripped down The National.  Senesac’s vocals may be an acquired taste (he has a weirdly affected way of pronouncing certain syllables) and the lyrics can be a little clumsy in places (notably on ‘Lost Sensation’ where he attempts to trump New Orders ‘State of the Nation’ in exhausting the rhyming possibilities of ‘-ation’ words) but for the most part he comes across as a promising and talented songwriter.  Now he just needs to find an equally talented band to bring his songs fully to life. Rating: 5/10