Philadelphia mumble folk long-hair Kurt Vile has been chasing expansive, Americana highway meditations since he was emulating his Drag City idols as a kid, handing out CD-Rs to co-workers later at various blue collar gigs that he’s only now quit, in his 30s. Everybody loves the fact that he was a forklift driver. Listen to the 2009 Bosswave staple “Freak Train” and you will too – portrait of a young man flying his freak flag for the first, liberating time: [LISTEN]

Go ahead tell me ‘hello’ or ‘fuck you’

Whatever introduction suits you

I ain’t tryin’ to fight

I’m just tryin’ to ride this train to make it home tonight

This isn’t the ‘freak’ of the Devendra Banhart kind. Nor Captain Beefheart, Syd Barrett, Frank Zappa. None of that. In fact, Vile’s not a freak at all, really. He’s a humble, plainspoken cruiser, with way more handfuls of accessible tunes under his belt than cryptic ones – “On Tour,” “Freeway in Mind,” “My Sympathy.” He’s put out a consistent set of records that shake out whatever cobwebs are entrenched up in that chill head of his, able to carry Neil Young angst on J. Mascis wings. His fifth effort, Wakin on a Pretty Daze masters the craft, Vile opening with a nine-minute, very simple open-window zen chaser called “Wakin on a Pretty Day:” [LISTEN]

I live along a straight line

Nothing always comes to mind

To be frank, I’m fried

But I don’t mind

He’s not Emerson or Thoreau. There are several cringing lines splayed about the record, most of them in “Too Hard” – “Life is like a ball of beauty/It makes you just wanna cry/Then you die” – but they all lead to transcendental moments if you ride the sprawling guitar work long enough, even on “Too Hard,” where Vile fingerpick dances around a reverb-swathed lap-steel fill waxing upon the beauty of fatherhood:

There comes a time in everyman’s life

When he’s gotta take hold of the hand

That ain’t his

But it is

Most of Wakin on a Pretty Daze is like this, like endless road trip conversations with the most even-keel of your friends. Strokes of black may show up – a suicidal thought here, an exploding heart there – but with Vile at the helm, ain’t nothin’ can’t be healed with a bluesy howl and a swaggering melody that unfolds like fresh concrete beneath the wheels. The most animated moment of the record, a handful of ‘woos’, are on a cowbell shimmy called “Shame Chamber,” that has Vile mocking the very concept of such a thing. This is a dude who’s vibe cannot be killed, who has found his way of bottling it in record form.

There’s a line on a shaker midnight ride that endcaps the 11-track gem, “Goldtone” that pretty much distills Vile’s current ethos, if you’re one to cut to the chase. And it doesn’t require a ‘hello’ or a ‘fuck you’ introduction to grasp:

I might be adrift, but I’m still alert
Concentrate my hurt into a gold tone
Golden tones