24 years after The Dream Syndicate burst onto the LA Paisley
Underground scene, Steve Wynn is still going strong as a great
American singer/songwriter. Since 1990 he's been putting out records
as a solo artist, and has amassed an unrivalled body of work that
draws inspiration from the decades of guitar rock that inspired him
and then takes it to a whole new level.
Crossing Dragon Bridge was recorded solo in a small studio
in Lubljana, Slovenia, and then embellished with separately-recorded
strings and choir, plus contributions from old pals such as Linda
Pitmon and Chris Cacavas back home. There's less of the
full-on, cranked-up rawk feeling of his last three (great) albums
with regular band The Miracle 3 and more of the reflective,
personal feel of older albums such as My Midnight. I have to
admit I prefer the Miracle 3 records (they've played with Wynn for
long enough now to get the intuition thing going, and are super tight
live), but there is plenty to enjoy here if you're in a contemplative
"Slovenian Rhapsody 1" opens the album; it's a spaghetti
Western-ish tune complete with whistling, which I've never thought
is a good thing on rock records, but is much improved once voice and
swelling strings come into the mix. First great new Wynn song comes
with "Manhattan Fault Line," an urgent 12-string guitar
strum in 3 / 4 time. It has a great story line about how snobby New
Yorkers think us Californians deserve to live in an earthquake zone,
but could get their own seismic comeuppance some day, intertwined
with an analogy about Wynn's move from California to New York being
similarly earth shaking. More beautiful strings (as on the other tunes,
courtesy of the Apollon Chamber Orchestra) make this one really
There follow a few less compelling tunes; "Love Me Anyway"
is OK (but not nearly as good as the Waterboys song of the
same name), but would be much improved with real percussion instead
of a drum machine. "When We Talk About Forever" is another
string-embellished waltz, with a nice East European feel to the melody.
Things pick back up on "Annie and Me," a nice, chugging
tune driven by a pretty basic drum machine and a dense acoustic strum,
with some tasty electric guitar on top and nice backing vocals from
Linda Pitmon. The song changes about halfway through to a slower tempo,
in the vein of the epic "No tomorrow" from last album ...Tick
...Tick ..Tick, but then we're back to the stomp to finish. "Bring
The Magic" is another great Wynn road song in the vein of "Amphetamine":
"50,000 watts from the back of my Impala / Wolfman Jack is on
the line tonight" This is more of a slow cruise through a Southern
night than a full-on blast down the highway; the song works pretty
well with a muted arrangement, including some more great strings.
Things get a little bit patchy again after that, but special mention
goes to the swampy and atmospheric "God Doesn't Like It,"
which features some killer Beggars Banquet-style harmonica
from the main man himself.
Overall, Wynn plays really well here on an impressive breadth of
instruments (for example, the organ on "Love Me Anyway"
is Wynn, not longtime contributor Chris Cacavas); still, despite the
additions by other musicians, the record still has a homemade feel
that might give fans who've come to Wynn via the Miracle 3 albums
some pause for thought. Overall, though, budget and schedule constraints
are always there, and it's always great to have a new Steve Wynn record;
I'd much rather have these songs out there in any form than stuck
on the shelf.
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