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Whiskeytown
Pneumonia
Lost Highway Records


For a long time I have waited, semi-patiently, for the newest recording from Whiskeytown, the "new country" band fronted by Ryan Adams. I was not disappointed when I heard it. Here is another collection of intelligent and heartfelt songs, continuing the Whiskeytown legacy. These songs are full of integrity and honesty, but also contain a sonically fresh package that somehow reminds the heart of its old friends. Ryan Adams proves again that he is the soul of what was lost in country music for the decade of the 90ís. It was an era of Garth Brooks and Shania TwainĖover produced, slicked-up pop songs made to cross over into the realm of AAA radio, much like the Kenny Rogers of the late 70ís. Well folks, REAL country music is back! And itís filled with the things that made country music what it is supposed to be: the heart of America and the soul of its dynamic and spiritual people. This latest disc from Whiskeytown reflects an introspective folk feel, but doesnít slip often, nor far from the borders of Hankís country.

"The Ballad Of Carol Lynn" begins this feast of musical beauty with its downbeat folky tale of crossed love and distressing distances. The feeling is one of Dylanesque balladry, with a harmonica solo that would leave Bobby Z shaking and crying in his boots. Wonderful mandolin scrubs and floating electric guitars grace the sound of "Donít Wanna Know Why". The feeling of the song is somehow subdued and yet jubilant in its simple, wondrous message. "Jacksonville Skyline" gives us a glimpse of the Mississippi town through the eyes of a man looking for his truths and seeking his path to whatever his final destination may be. "Reasons To Lie" drags us along on a journey of self-deprecation and depression; exploring feelings that each of us has had to deal with at one time or another in our lives. Sounds reminiscent of Jimmy Webb-era Glen Campbell come shining though on "Donít Be Sad". There are the strings and the chiming guitars, backed by dense harmonies and an uplifting feeling of hope. "Sit And ListenÖ" strums out an acoustic guitar based song that will stick to your ribs, and plague your heart with its biting questioning and dark emotion. The counterpoints of acoustic and electric instrumentation really add a depth to this song that will make all of you guitar players sit up and take special notice of whatís going on in this song. And those of you who just appreciate an incredible song, with a wealth of feeling and dynamic will fall in love immediately.

The album slows down and turns to the minimalist approach with "Under Your Breath". In its sparse arrangement, this song focuses entirely on the emotions of a lost and drifting soul anxious to turn its back on this hard life. Ryan Adams turns to Beatles-esque piano and guitar on "Mirror, Mirror", sounding remarkably similar to Jellyfish. The song bounces along, adding a horn section for a unique depth, revealing the poetís wish for a new set of questions. "Paper Moon" nods to 50ís country with its steel guitars and sparse drumbeats. I canít help but think Patsy would be singing this song if only she had survived. "What the Devil Wanted" is a spooky lo-fi sing-songy bedtime ditty for twisted and broken hearts. With its lullaby vibe, strange organ playing and skips and pops reminiscent of real vinyl records, this is a song to haunt your dreams as well as your waking moments. "Crazy About You" brings the record up to an easily recognizable Whiskeytown semi-rock thing, with crisp guitars and even crisper songwriting. And I want to be happy; and I only want you; If you think that Iím crazy; Iím just crazy Ďbout youÖ Iím just crazy Ďbout you. Bruce Springsteenís spirit makes a brief appearance for "My Hometown"; a story woven with the spirit of what the "Boss" was once able to deliver. There is a familiar feeling to this song from the moment it begins, and even the eerie ghostly-ice-cream-man sounds do nothing to dispel that familiarity. "Easy Heart" is a masterpiece of downbeat Whiskeytown, with the ultra-complimentary background vocals of Caitlin Cary making their first overt appearance. And those who are already familiar with Whiskeytown know that her voice is as haunting and beautiful as any that have ever graced the jukeboxes of this great land. Her voice only adds to the already amazing depth of this great track, which begins the wind-down for the record and takes us to the "Bar Lights". What a fancy, upbeat way to end your latest and greatest record, Ryan! Canít wait for that new solo record now, either.

SoÖhereís the run-down. Do you dig John Hiatt? Bob Dylan? Hank Williams? Rambliní Jack Elliott? Ian Tyson? Merle Haggard? Music with HUGE amounts of soul and truth and being and honest emotion? Then this record is for you. If you "hate" country music, then close your eyes and pretend itís not country. Itís not too difficult with this record. It will float you along an emotional plane far above where you live out your drudging day-to-day existence. I promise you will fall in love with this recordÖ or my name isnít

Ė David DeVoe

Track Listing:

  1. The Ballad Of Carol Lynn
  2. Donít Wanna Know Why
  3. Jacksonville Skyline
  4. Reasons To Lie
  5. Donít Be Sad
  6. Sit And Listen To The Rain
  7. Under Your Breath
  8. Mirror, Mirror
  9. Paper Moon
  10. What The Devil Wanted
  11. Crazy About You
  12. My Hometown
  13. Easy Hearts
  14. Bar Lights

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