Charming in its no-frills, bare-bones approach, Port Orchards’ new EP “Nobody’s Roses” is a surprisingly moving piece of work. It’s the one-man-band project of singer/songwriter Peter Gill, who deftly mixes traditional country and jangling alt-country with a subtle pop sensibility.

The EP’s lo-fi aesthetic provides a sense of intimacy that may have been lost had Gill decided to go the big studio production route. The result is a listening experience akin to two old friends sharing an easy conversation over a couple of beers on the back porch at the height of summer.

Opening track “I Love You, But I’ll Be Gone Tomorrow” serves as an excellent introduction. Gill’s voice has a slightly scratchy, quavering quality to it, but he sings with an earnestness that makes the lyrics come alive. Thematically, this is classic country, with a protagonist who loves his woman but still can’t fight the urge to ramble. Musically, the jangling guitars plant this track firmly in alt-country territory, although the minimal production also adds a certain punky, DIY feel.

“Summer Of Yr Dreams” contains the EP’s best hook, with the chorus of “Are you ready for the summer (I dunno),” all but guaranteed to be the next ear worm of anybody who hears it. “This chord will be gone tomorrow/ because it’s everyone’s to borrow,” sings Gill over buoyant chords that belie the melancholy lyric about summer’s fleeting magic. The EP was recorded using Garage Band, and there’s just a hint of distortion on the vocals. Thankfully, this doesn’t detract from the emotional impact whatsoever.

“Big Frontier” is an ode to apathy, the final lyric summing things up perfectly: “Every evening I get so tired/ I brush my teeth and go to bed.” This is followed by a few half-hearted “na na na’s” before ending abruptly. It’s almost as if Gill is saying “I could give this song a proper ending, but what’s the point?” It’s kind of brilliant the way the song manages to be sort of gloomy yet subtly funny at the same time.

“All My Saturdays” contains what is perhaps the EP’s best and most devastating line: “I can almost love you with the lights on.” There’s a pretty little solo at the end of this one, and some interesting time changes as well.

“Daughter” laments the passing of time while cursing the slow passing of painful memories. “I am a piece of painted glass looking down on Sunday Mass/ remembering that all things pass, but not all things pass gentle,” Gill sings, all over an almost jaunty mid-tempo riff that makes this song the perfect combination of beauty and sadness.

The EP concludes with its title track, a country rock ballad that sounds a little like a great lost Eagles track, but sung by Jeff Tweedy. The ragged quality of Gill’s voice really shines on this song. It’s the perfect vehicle for conveying the sense of weary resignation expressed in the lyrics, making pleading lines like “I’m asking you to fix me” all the more powerful.

If your idea of “country” centers around the latest over-hyped mega-stars being played on country radio, Port Orchards is not for you. Likewise, if you place a premium on slick, high-end production, move along. There’s nothing to see here.

On the other hand, if you choose your music based on its ability to provoke an emotional response, regardless of sound quality, then “Nobody’s Roses” might be exactly what you’ve been searching for. Unlike whatever’s coming out of Nashville these days, Peter Gill’s Port Orchards project is a refreshing and rare release that values substance over style, not the other way around.

Stream the album for free and download the tracks for the bargain price of $3 at port-orchards.bandcamp.com/album/nobodys-roses-ep.

Rick Johnson is a freelance writer and radio host from Westbrook. He can be contacted at:

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