Personnel: Sam Riggs (vocals, guitar, banjo); Jonan Rigsbee (guitar); Milo Deering (steel guitar, dobro, fiddle, pennywhistle); Bradley Knight (organ); Erik Herbst (bass synthesizer); Chad Camp (drums); Bryan Brock (percussion).
Recording information: Panhandle House, Denton, TX.
As far as Red Dirt country goes, Sam Riggs -- seen here solo on this 2016 album, his backing band Night People not sharing credit -- veers toward the mainstream on Breathless. The sound isn't as dusty as so many of his Texas brethren -- the bright production is as open as the West Texas skies, even when it dips into electronic rhythms -- but beneath the sheen, he favors finely etched story-songs and narratives, trademarks of the maverick-minded outlaws. Sometimes, he kicks up the dust with a tip of the hat to Western swing ("Wake the Dead") or cranks up the guitars ("High on a Country Song"), but most of this is moody and deliberate, alternating between slyly sad ballads and meditative midtempo crawls. Such a slow pace, combined with Riggs' plainspoken vocals, means Breathless tends to require attention without necessarily demanding it; it's taken as a given that you'll accept it on its own terms, putting in the time to derive pleasure in the subtly shaded melodies and turns of phrase. Without that effort, Breathless can seem to be that oddest of things: Red Dirt mood music. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine