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  Listen Up! 8/18/03 Listen Up!

Monday, Aug. 18

Ray Benson, “Beyond Time,” Koch Records. All those years leading Asleep at the Wheel showed that Benson had impeccable swing credentials, an easy vocal delivery that fit perfectly with his band’s immersion in the Bob Wills western swing template. Well, it turns out the man can sing blues and other jazz forms quite nicely, too. And straight country. This album occasionally bogs down with too much of an easy-going approach, but for the most part, it’s a nice little record. Guest appearances by Dolly Parton, Jimmie Vaughan, Flaco Jiminez, and Delbert McClinton liven things up, too. As much as I’ve enjoyed Asleep at the Wheel over the years, I think Benson should keep exploring this more eclectic approach, since his band has pretty much proved itself masters of a form that can’t grow or change any more.

Del McCoury Band, “It’s Just the Night,” McCoury Music/Sugar Hill Records. First, let me correct the egregious mistake I made last time I reviewed this album. There are two, count ‘em, two Richard Thompson songs on this album, one of which is the first song on the whole record, “Dry My Tears and Move On.” There’s also “Two-Faced Love,” as I correctly mentioned last time. And a cool Delbert McClinton cover, “Same Kind of Crazy.” And lots of other songs I don’t recognize but which sound cool. McCoury is playing bluegrass, no question, but he’s decided to toss the traditional repertoire out the window, and just concentrate on finding great songs that he can adapt to his approach. I would love this band if they simply played the same songs that every other bluegrass band plays, but I worship them because they are this good and branching out at the same time into the kinds of songs I like even more. Excellent record.

Neil Finn, “Try Whistling This,” Work Records. It’s another gorgeous, sumptious collection of tunes from Mr. Consistency. I’m not hearing any single track that jumps out at me in the manner of his classic singles from the Crowded House years, but Finn has never left me feeling anything but pleasure.

--Steve Pick

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