soundbites
January '03

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Back Porch Mary
Back Porch Mary - Back Porch Mary

Gritty, homespun but hell-bent rock is what's sittin' on Back Porch Mary, an Austin-based group with Kansas roots. Its logic is equal parts gutter-dweller and contemporary farm hand. In its hardest incarnations the band sounds as raw and irreverent as the Sin City Disciples. On its lighter side — which means really fast, loud country — the band sounds similar to hometown honky-rockers Hadacol..

Still, Back Porch Mary has pop sensibilities, twisted as they are. "Trash Truck" is rife with big rock riffs and crowd-pleasing grunt choruses. "S.A.P.", somehow, is a feel good ode to a bad breakup in the old hometown.

Stuart Sullivan, who has produced albums for the Meat Puppets, Willie Nelson, the Supersuckers and more, lent his talents, resulting in a tight, well-recorded effort. The band's lyrics, chock full of Middle American sensibilities, belie the tiem the band spent in Manhattan, KS, in the late '90s. And though some verses are trite, what matters are the chops are tight. "Busted Town" is a heavy metal meltdown disguised as roots rock. So is "Whiskey." You get the picture... and its' good, even if it's a little fuzzy like the reception from a turn-the-dial TV in a trailer park. —Lance Jungmeyer

200 km/h in the Wrong Lane
t.A.T.u. -
Universal Music Russia/Interscope

The Russian duo t.A.T.u. exploded through the Russian music charts last year with their pop debut, 200 km/h in the Wrong Lane. And now Lena Katina and Julia Volkova are challenging the United States with an English-language version of their album.

The girls combine the drive of the Energizer bunny with the image of an anything-but-innocent Catholic schoolgirl. The style of their music boasts a relentless intensity and repetitive groundwork all throughout the album.

The majority of the songs on the 200 km/h are in English, but the duo did include the original Russian version of their single “All the Things She Said” plus a couple more in both languages. The girls’ thick accents, although novel to mainstream music on U.S. airwaves, are difficult at first to understand.

The enhanced CD features t.A.T.u.’s provocative music video to “All the Things She Said,” which won 2001’s video of the year on MTV Russia, and a behind-the-scenes interview with the two singers. —Jessica Chapman

Spiritual People
Speech - Vagabond Productions

Still penning socially conscious lyrics, Todd "Speech" Thomas is moving ahead. The former leader of Arrested Development has produced a recording that's not easy to categorize.

Speech mixes rap with country, raggae and folk music, most of the time with success. Songs such as "Jungle Man," "Y-O" and "Brother Speech" showcase the easygoing, witty and sometimes slightly wacked, but always clean lyrics, and free-spirited music that distinguished Arrested Development from other rappers in the early 1990s.

Other songs on the CD, however, sound a bit forced, as if Speech is deliberately adding a country twang or Jamaican accent to prove his diversity. Speech is at his best when he's rapping and singing in his recognizable, easygoing and playful style. —Deborah Young

Red Letter Days
The Wallflowers -
Geffen

When Jacob Dylan and the rest of The Wallflowers sat down to compose the music and lyrics to Red Letter Days, they must have had some kind of instructional manual in front of them, dictating the ways of pop-song composition. The album is certainly a return to their former hit making ways — a big, sharp, super-composed blueprint of an album that could serve to reintroduce the group to both the ways of making a lot of money making music, and a high ranking position on the pop chart.

The album is catchy in every sense, in nearly every facet of what the songs try to accomplish. From the quasi-rock of "Everybody Out Of the Water" to the brooding, crooning pop of "Closer to You," the young Dylan and company have extended their knack for hit making from one sound to several and, in the process, have given old fans something to chew on and prospective fans a buffet of styles from which to choose. —Ron Knox

Night Divides the Day: The Music of the Doors
George Winston
- Dancing Cat Records

New Age pianist George Winston’s love for the Doors began in 1967 with their first album, which was a major motivation for him learning to play first the organ and later the piano. Now, more than 35 years later, Winston masterfully captures the band’s music in Night Divides the Day: The Music of the Doors.

Winston’s crisp deployment of the music gives it a high state of energy; not a note is out of place. The material allowed him to display his dexterity and virtuosity more than his previous albums.

Half of the album Winston arranged, including favorites such as “People are Strange,” “Riders on the Storm” and “Love Her Madly.” The mood of “Light My Fire,” another selection that he arranged, stretches between confidently bold and sassy. Of unusual note is “My Wild Love,” in which Winston plays much of the song by directly plucking and muting the strings inside of the piano. —Jessica Chapman

For Sale
Tom Burris -
Tomato Records

Tom Burris is on the edge of being a phenomenal singer/songwriter. There's no denying his creative talent. Still, where For Sale should have been a great album, it is only a good CD. The problem (and some listeners will disagree) is that most every cut is terribly over-produced. Where the music should be restrained when played against Burris' vocal phrasing, it sometimes seems that Burris is singing so not to be overwhelmed by the music.

Only on songs such as "I" with the wonderful lyric, "Don't you think she saw herself/in that moment where she died/Don't you think her soul might finally feel satisfied/in I?" does the music composition seem structured around Burris' lyrical strengths. The restraint also shows up in the thoughtful pacing of "Depth Charge" and "Throttled Up."

Burris, who has been causing a stir in East Coast clubs, has the makings of being an immense artist once he gives listeners the space to reflect on his powerful lyrics. —Ron Knox

 

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