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January 16, 2007

CD Reviews - The Wilson Chronicles

Departures Andy Wagner (TENSE FORMS) <mellow> As soon as I put on the album, it came on with piano, acoustic guitar and a harmonica. Oh lord, are we ripping off Dylan or Tweedy? In reality, it’s a little of both I suppose, even some Elliott Smith. The songs are pretty and arranged very simply, but very well. There are strong elements of road weariness and distant loves. Definitely a good break-up album: Sad, but not self-indulgent or awash in self-pity. It seems genuine. The songs are delicate, and the simplicity of the arrangements remind me of Nick Drake. The instrumentation and lyrics hang in that balance where neither overpowers the other. —Anna Wilson The Visitors The Visitors (ESCHATONE) <high school high> This New York trio has elements of almost every one of my favorite bands in high school. The Ramones, MC5, Black flag, Misfits, The Stooges … but mostly the Ramones. For a new band, The Visitors pull off that old-school sound pretty well. They sing about the usual material, not fitting in, zombies, making out with girls etc. All of this lyrical genius is backed by power chords, heys and handclaps. It is definitely a fun album but nothing that breaks new ground. Luckily the album clocks in at a little more than a half hour, so you don’t have time to get bored. —Anna Wilson My Name Is Buddy Ry Cooder (PERRO VERDE/NONESUCH) <best pal> Ry is still at it. This newest album evokes elements of old Appalachian blue-collar anthems, with a subtle, dry humor. “Strike!” has traditional union miner protest sentiments, but the backing vocal seems to mimic the lead in a baritone pseudo-harmony. It is about a traveling man who crashes a local miner birthday party and learns their songs. “J. Edgar” is about a pig on a farm that earned its name by appropriating everything edible in sight for itself. The album becomes more diverse as it moves along, from the bluesy gospel of “Sundown Town,” to the lounge-y “Green Dog” to the sweet “Hank Williams,” about his old friend. My Name Is Buddy has everything from moonshine (the booze kind) to spacesuits (the astronaut kind), it covers the gamut. —Anna Wilson 9 Damien Rice (REPRISE) <grows on you> It was a surprise that this album opens with a female vocal, that turns into a duet backed with a piano and a few strings. It sets you up well for the rest of the album. 9 is filled with the whole post break-up angst, anger, sadness, loneliness. The songs seem simple at first, but the minimal instrumentation is deceptive. I was actually bored with this release upon first listen, but it definitely grows on you. Some of the lyrics area bit cheesy and predictable, but not all of us can be Dylan. The first three tracks are almost pitifully sad with just an edge of anger, and as the album goes on, things get a little louder and a little more pissed. The songs unfortunately fit very easily into the ever growing singer-songwriter category, but Rice holds his own. If you are already a fan, you will be pleased. If you’re not, I would suggest giving it a listen (skip “Dogs” though). —Anna Wilson Now The Codetalkers (COLLARD GREEN) <jamtacular> These guys have been at it for a while. The tracks are groovy and at times “jam-tacular,” but the players are more seasoned than a lot of the bands on this scene. Codetalkers put together a fairly diverse album complete with gems and some predictable stuff. They get bluesy and funky at times, but the songs are most immediately reminiscent of John Schofield. Hippies follow these guys for sure. Strangely enough, though, the lead singer reminds me of Axl Rose, and somehow, it works. It’s fun stuff, and the band manages to keep a substantial amount of energy throughout the album. Even the slower tracks don’t drag on. —Anna Wilson Last Kids in the Bar Charlie Faye (SELF RELEASED) <talented> I thought this might be like Edie Brickell or maybe early Liz Phair, but Charlie Faye has added much more of a country element to the straight-up rock ’n’ roll. Her voice sounds older than expected. Her version of Gershwin’s “Summertime” is pleasing. Faye relies on lyrics to pull off some of her songs,m even though the content isn’t quite there. The title track is another highlight, and Laurie Packard doing backup vocals is a nice addition. Faye is a talented songwriter for sure, but I didn’t get goosebumps or anything. —Anna Wilson Grand Forks Tom Brosseau (LOVELESS) <Hank recall> It’s unfortunate that the easiest way for me to categorize this album is in that ever-growing singer-songwriter category. Tom Brosseau immediately reminded me of Hank Williams, and I am not the first person to make this association. Despite that connection to the old school country, Brosseau has a newness that reminds me of Andrew Bird. It could be old, but you can tell it’s not because of the subtle weirdness. The tracks are sad in a ragged, weary sort of way. Grand Forks, a concept album about Grand Forks, N.D., is the type of record you half-listen to the first time before going back for another, more attentive go-round. —Anna Wilson