Mike Ireland was the lead singer of the country-punk band The Starkweathers, who released two singles, one of which was on on Sub Pop. When that group folded, Ireland stayed on, and released his debut solo album, Learning How To Love, in 1998. Unlike the previously mentioned “country” acts earlier this week, Ireland was the real deal. He sang with a twang, and the group specialized in tear-in-your-beer, another somebody-done-somebody-wrong songs, a traditional country affair that had much more to do with Nashville and Seattle.
Still, it’s a great little record with numerous jewels. “Cry” is a old-time weepie that screams “The Bakersfield Sound,” while “Graveyard Song” and “Biggest Torch In Town” could be Randy Travis or Dwight Yoakam songs. I quite like “Cold, Cold Comfort,” a song that could have given Nashville and modern country a run for its money.
Or maybe not. You never know.
The album met stunning indifference, and Ireland moved on. Interestingly, he moved on with a fellow Sub Pop label-mate, Joe Pernice, who would produce and release Ireland’s second (and so far last) album,Try Again, its title a telling reference to his debut’s failure. This album is a masterpiece, a lush, contemporary affair that tones down the twang, amps up the lush backing, and is a gem of a record that I promise I will write about in further detail.