It’s fair to say that Marc Miner is a bit of an outlaw. Ostracized from America, Miner has long since relocated to Vienna, Austria where he’s carved out a reputation as one of the most convincing purveyors of rough-hewn Americana working today. His 2020 debut Smile When You’re Wasted served notice that his songwriting would always exist on the margins; his art is rife with shady and/or desperate characters struggling to maintain their footing in an increasingly slippery world.
His new collection Last Heroes underlines those qualities. Miner isn’t content merely regurgitating the achievements of his debut. Last Heroes, instead, builds on that collection with a mix of first-person writing, narratives in song, and subject matter riffing on contemporary concerns. He pulls his art from a diverse range of modes rather than working on a predictable path.
“Sweet Revenge” hinges on well-chosen atmospheric touches, reverb-driven guitar lines, and an up-tempo pace. Miner also manipulates the track’s dynamics in a dramatic fashion without the performance descending into overwrought histrionics. His voice possesses effortless gravitas; you can’t help but keep listening as he sings about these characters facing their final moments and the song’s unflinching descriptions aren’t for the faint of heart.
He echoes blues legend Robert Johnson with the opening line of “Girl Gone Bad” and the remainder of the song covers familiar territory. Miner has the same ribald tastes of his illustrious predecessors and they emerge from the lyrics free from any sugarcoating. It alternates between bluesy riffs and a Southern rock groove with spectacular results. Miner leans into his vocal with the zest that the song deserves. “Nicki & Bob” tempers the preceding song’s approach so listeners can focus more on the lyrical content. It’s an excellent example of Miner’s storytelling prowess and distinctive skills for characterization.
The appealing shuffle of “Last Hero’s Gone”, the album’s nominal title track, frames another depiction of lives lived on the edge. It’s a world of car crashes and a hard-boiled lack of sentimentality that Miner portrays with yet another twist on his vocal delivery. He’s a deceptively elastic singer capable of tailoring his voice to the demands of each track. The anthemic echoes of “Last Hero’s Gone” reappear during the track “Heavy Bones”, but it isn’t where the song’s emphasis lies. Instead, “Heavy Bones” succeeds largely due to more exceptional lyrical content, the growl in Miner’s voice, and its balanced sway between acoustic passages and a rousing Southern rock stomp.
A deliberate stomp powers “Bible & Rifle” as well. Intermittent salvos of distorted guitar give the track ample musical attitude and Miner responds with one of the album’s strongest vocals. The way he bites off lines with unquestionable relish defines the track and the track’s message harbors plenty of barely contained disgust. “Cheer Me Up ‘Cause I’m Leaving” closes Last Heroes with a gentle swirl that peaks at all the right places. The chorus is especially effective, and Miner throws himself into the moment with emphatic emotion conveying how much the song means to him. It’s an elegiac final curtain for a satisfying collection and shows Marc Miner developing at an exponential pace.