SoundStage! Music Online Editor's Pick Archives
May/June 2002

Dave Alvin and the Guilty Men - Out in California
HighTone HCD8144, 2002

Musical Performance
****
Recording Quality

**1/2*

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2*

I gain respect for awards like the Grammys when performers like Dave Alvin win them, in Alvin's case for Public Domain, which we also named one of the best recordings of 2000. Co-founder of roots-rock band the Blasters, Alvin made a terrific live album with his band the Guilty Men in 1996 (titled Interstate Highway). So why make another? Amidst some distinguished studio releases, Alvin has toured relentlessly, conceding that "What I do is play live." So here are 13 tunes from various periods in Alvin's career: as Blaster, fledgling solo performer, and established act. My favorites are the two written by Alvin and Tom Russell -- the title tune and "Haley's Comet" -- for their storytelling, but throughout the sets from which the tracks were gleaned, Alvin and the Guilty Men seize the crowd's attention with a kind of rough-hewn artistry. There's even some humor -- at the very end, Alvin and band play "Freebird" essentially on a dare. The sound is a little congealed and peaky, but it doesn't ruin enjoyment of this disc and its performances, which are choice....Marc Mickelson


Mark Eitzel - Music for Courage & Confidence
New West NW6038, 2002

Musical Performance
****
Recording Quality

****

Overall Enjoyment
****

His time as frontman for American Music Club having ended five solo albums ago, Mark Eitzel has finally gotten around to a cover album, and what a fine collection it is. Music for Courage & Confidence retains the brooding, whispery nature that is Eitzel's style and in the process makes a few of these songs seem like they were misinterpreted in their original forms. And what a mix of songs -- everything from Anne Murray to Boy George to Glen Campbell. My favorite redo is "Ain't No Sunshine," whose title Eitzel seems to use for interpretive inspiration. The slow, electronic vibe of Music will make it distinctive background music for your next party, and its sound will not disappoint audiophile sensibilities. But the more I listen to Music, the more I realize what I like about Mark Eitzel to begin with: He doesn't attempt to reinvent pop music (whew!), but he still achieves originality and humor, even with his covers. If you've never heard of Mark Eitzel or American Music Club, Music of Courage & Confidence will be like a dish whose ingredients you're familiar with but you've never eaten together. Dig in....Marc Mickelson


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