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  Listen Up! 4/29/02 Listen Up!

Monday, Apr. 29

Earl King, "Hard River to Cross," Black Top Records. This record came out in 1993, but I've never heard it before. King is a New Orleans-based blues guitarist who writes songs that aim for something beyond the standard blues ingredients. He tells stories, not that I'm in any place to listen to them closely right now, and he stays away from 12-bar patterns most of the time. He pulls in that delicious New Orleans groove for the backbeat, and his guitar playing is particularly delightful, with a sharply delineated tone that doesn't rely on sustain hardly at all. This guy is full of ideas, and this record makes me wanna dance.

The Waxwings, "Shadows of the Waxwings," Bobsled Records. I know nothing about these guys, but they sound to me like the best British pop/rock band to come along in years. I think they're actually from Detroit, but that doesn't change the sound of the music. Lots of sliding guitar figures, the Brit-pop rhythm emphasis, and swirling melodies with bah-bah-bah backing vocals.

Ultimate Fakebook, "Open Up and Say Awesome," Initial Records. I bet these guys go to sleep at night and dream they're the punk rock Beatles or something, cause they use those suspended chords or sustained 4ths or whatever those things are that I never learned properly from music theory study. Yeah, they use them, but they don't do anything with them. Their melodies are limp, their rhythms foursquare blah, their vocals whiny. There is nothing whatsoever about this music that makes me feel it's actually engaging with the world in any kind of imaginative manner.

French Kicks, "One Time Bells," Startime International. I just realized I've been hearing this music for a little while, but it barely registers. It's not bad, modern pop/rock indie style, with interesting arrangements for guitar/bass/drums/keys (I think), and vocals that sound sometimes like a looser Squeeze thing is happening. Melodies are okay, but the weak link in the mix. It could grow on me, if I ever thought I'd hear it again.

--Steve Pick



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