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In 1997 newspaper reporter Mike Rosenthal left rural Maine for Austin carrying dreams of rock and roll stardom. Despite two albums, and some notoriety for his running skills (he has regularly placed high in the Austin Marathon), it hasn’t exactly worked out that way: His releases, though stylistic opposites—one alt-country, the other amped-up power pop—never quite hit their mark. Still, don’t count Rosenthal out yet. On the surface, there’s nothing that extraordinary about Home (Freedom); it’s largely made up of songs built on basic strummed acoustic guitar chords. But just try to get it out of your head. Timeless in the fashion of many well-worn pop classics, Home is almost freakishly engaging. Rosenthal’s tales aren’t cloaked in mystery or metaphor; honest, direct, and plainly told, they’re gems that spring forth one after another (“Funny,” “Go Home,” “What I Should Do,” “Next Train”). In an age of self- consciously hip introspection, Home beats a retreat to life’s basic treasures and conundrums, and the music rings true. Only toward the end of the ten-song set does it begin to lose any steam. By that point, you just want to start it over.

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