Virgin Records America
CRACKER, BORN OF the mighty Camper Van Beethoven, moves ever closer to the power-pop center with this new collection, which kicks off with the hook-heavy anthem "I Hate My Generation" and remains resolutely in hum-along, radio-friendly territory. There's some good stuff here: "I Can't Forget You" is as sweet a ballad as you've heard in a long while, and "Nothing to Believe In" is a sparkling stomp that features Joan Osborne's impressive backing vocals. Yet on many tracks lead singer David Lowery seems to be channeling Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie, giving them a retro feel that invites listeners to play the name-that-influence game. The disc is hardly groundbreaking, but still worth a spin.
CHRIS HILLMAN & HERB PEDERSENBakersfield Bound
Sugar Hill Records
THESE VETERAN COUNTRY-ROCKERS have breathed new life into the Bakersfield Sound--again. Continuing the path set by their late, lamented Desert Rose Band, Hillman and Pedersen have turned out an album that might make you wonder if you've hit some radio-wave time warp, with its big guitars, pedal steel (from fellow DRB'er Jay Dee Maness' fiddle, mandolin and--best of all--classic harmonies. Of course, they can't miss with material like "Close Up the Honky Tonks," "Brand New Heartache," "My Baby's Gone," "It's Not Love (But It's Not Bad)" and "The Lost Highway." Hillman's own compositions fit right in, and they've even given the treatment to Jim and Jesse's "Congratulations Anyway"--to such good effect it makes you wonder what took them so long. This twangy, amiable album is sure to bring a happy sigh.
PAUL SIEBELPaul Siebel
SIEBEL IS MOSTLY known for Leo Kottke's and Bonnie Raitt's versions of his "Louise," a fine song but nothing special compared to the rest of his catalog. Rounder, God bless them, has re-released all of his first album and much of his second one on this disc. Siebel appeared on the folk scene as the '60s turned into the '70s, with songs that portrayed lives where isolation and loss were all too prevalent. This collection is an aural version of Bogdonavich's movie The Last Picture Show, and manages to be wonderfully/terribly depressing.
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