Country singer-songwriter Forrest VanTuyl, who performs as An American Forrest, revels in his second life as an Eastern Oregon cowboy on “O Bronder, Donder Yonder,” his third full-length album and first-ever release on OK Records. The label is the latest venture to come from the country music community that has been growing around the historic OK Theatre in Enterprise, Oregon, these last few years, giving rise to artists such as Bart Budwig, Cooper Trail and Margo Cilker.
“I believe the open wilderness of the Western United States is the most important thing,” An American Forrest states in his online biography, and that rings true throughout these 11 slow-burning songs. “Sam’s House” opens the album with wide-open rhythms and yearning pedal steel guitar, setting the mood for the song’s slice-of-ranch-life storytelling. “Ain’t Been Tamed, Yet” continues this thread, with An American Forrest delivering essentially a love letter to his adopted state (he’s originally from Washington): “It never rains in Oregon and I never fear the dark.”
An American Forrest’s quirks help set this music apart from countless other country singers obsessed with similar themes. His off-kilter sense of humor shines through in “Rawhide,” with the album’s non-sequitur title appearing in a musical break midway through the song, and in the “1-2-3-8” countdown of “Burnin’ Starlight.” Vocally, he’s unpolished, but in all the right ways, such as how his craggy voice breaks into a falsetto at the end of each line on the jazzy, spacey “Yonder Mountain.”
While most of these songs feature muscular, full-band arrangements, two tracks stand out in their stripped-down brevity. The achingly tender “Yonder, My Love” gives An American Forrest one of his best vocal showcases on the album, while “Pendleton Overcoat” marries another sweet love story to some nimble, fingerpicked acoustic guitar. On an album filled with honest storytelling, it doesn’t get any more honest than these two songs.
An American Forrest will return to Bend to perform at Pronghorn Resort at 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets cost $20 and include dinner; visit pronghornresort.com for details.
— Brian McElhiney, The Bulletin