Conrad Sansbury plays Americana with a country vibe, and before the quarantine he was singing originals at local hangouts like Navajo Live. His debut EP, Useless Love, includes five tracks that feature his vocals and guitar, backing vocals by Paty Sevener and Stuart Anthony, keyboards by Sharon Whyte, banjo and violin by string whiz Dennis Caplinger, and a Nashville rhythm section of Mark Hill on bass and Brian Fuller on drums.
Sansbury kicks things off with “What They All Said,” a straightforward tune about regrets experienced with a wayward lover and her efforts to restructure him to her expectations before a breakup. The song is midtempo and nicely arranged, with a nice, almost lush sound, helped by sweet harmonies and accents by lap steel guitar licks interplaying nicely with Caplinger’s banjo and well-recorded acoustic guitar picking. The title tune is next, and it is a slow, keyboard-driven breakup ballad with shimmering guitars, as Sansbury joins Sevener for big harmony choruses, “When your heart flies out the door like a thief in the dark/ That’s just some useless love tearing your life apart.” Like the opener, it is well arranged, with buildups and good support for Sansbury’s vocal, which here and elsewhere gets the job done without a whole lot of depth or power.
“Native Land” is a song ostensibly about a friend or lover behind walls that are so high they never come down. “Is this your native land or someone else’s dream?/ We’re not fixing this without a time machine.” This song has a reggae-based rhythm, which tends to bog down as it stutter-steps forward. Sansbury gets his rock ‘n’ roll shoes on for “One Way Out,” the disc highlight. It gets right to business as a critique of the social status quo where guns and money rule, and a consumer culture of big box stores, shiny banks, and people are big cogs in a massive machine. The song has a good groove and undeniable power, and the nice slide guitar fills help it crank things up.
The set wraps with “Wayward Eyes,” and again the arrangement is ear-catching—a smooth, uptempo pop tune with a message about navigating the travails of a relationship. “You see two faces in the mirror, or you don’t see a face at all.” At the two-minute mark, as it references “quel savage,” the song takes a sonic detour and suddenly lurches into a reverbed, overproduced bridge that doesn’t do the tune any favors.
Useless Love is a revealing look at the songwriting and singing of a relative newcomer to the local music scene. Conrad Salsbury is sure to be heard from again.