Sammy Brue’s 2017 debut drew a lot of attention – in part – because the Utah-based folk/Americana musician was just 15. And while it would have almost been journalistic malpractice not to cite his age in covering that release, it did overshadow the fact that it was a pretty solid musical outing. Now that Brue is back, this time with Crash Test Kid, and now old enough to avoid the “holy shit, this kid is so young” headlines, the focus is back on the music; and it’s even more impressive than its predecessor.
Crammed with 11 tracks, still anchored to the world of folk and Americana, Brue brings in more straight-forward rock and some blues influences as well to fill out the record. “Skatepark Domesday Blues” even finds Brue exercising his noise punk demons. The record’s opening track “Gravity,” still rooted in modern Americana, is a nice transition from his debut and 2018 EP to his latest collection of songs. But just the second song in, “Die Before You Live” he moves to a more rollicking, energetic sound. By the time he gets to the fast-tempo blues-slathered “Teenage Mayhem,” a quick build that leads to an explosion of guitar distortion, it’s clear the Brue is not content to simply make the same record over again.
There are still enough songs here tethered to Americana to feel like a natural evolution rather than simply an attempt to drastically reinvent himself musically. The measured, smartly written “True Believer,” for example sounds like it could have easily been a part of that 2017 debut and also manages to be one of Brue’s best songs to date. With Crash Test Kid, he’s able to both change directions a bit without losing any of the charm of his initial effort that won over so many converts.