Desert Discs

The promised reviews are here at last

This is an accomplished solo debut from a sizzling, finger-pickin' bluesman that prompts an immediate craving for a follow-up. Bingham's a Minnesota transplant, and his one-man act relies on an amplified acoustic guitar and flurries of notes interspersed with string slapping and damping that give a percussive feel to songs about trains, rivers and jail. While Bingham's vocals take a back seat to his fretwork, his gruff voice is a serviceable means of delivery for this tough pairing of country and Delta blues.

Bingham dedicates three fourths of the material on Alone to inspired interpretations (as opposed to covers) of standards like "Slidin' Delta" and "El Capitan." However, mellow, semiautobiographical tunes like "From the Cradle to the Grave" and "Footsteps of a Fool" give a hint of what lies in the songwriter's own introspective imagination--and indicate that Bingham could have issued an all-original album without a hitch.--Matt Golosinski

The Stumbles
The Stumbles

After Jefferson Airplane, but before Styx, "eclectic" became a dirty word in rock. An "eclectic" young band is one that hasn't figured out what it wants to be when it grows up, while an "eclectic" older group means even the drummer thinks he can sing (and, worse, write). The Stumbles fall somewhere in between. The band boasts two strong front men/guitarists, Ron Walker and Mark Moffatt--and Walker plays all the drums on this CD.

Any group that runs as wide a spectrum of styles in a 40-minute live set as the Stumbles can is eclectic in the best sense of the word. This band can harness the power of Sugar or Live and tack on highly polished block harmonies worthy of the Plimsouls or the Rembrandts, as demonstrated here on "SSS Man" and "Undertow."

"And She" is a whisper-to-scream pop gem that starts out with chiming acoustic 12strings like The La's "There She Goes," before launching into a nasally Bob Mouldish chorus. When he sings this song live, the large-framed Moffatt resembles Ed Wood's beloved wrestler/actor, Tor Johnson, at his eye-bulging best. In the recorded version of "And She," Moffatt states that his beloved "gets on my face." Live, however, I could swear he sings "sits." In any case, "And She" is a killer song, and the band has more where that came from: The number of new tunes the Stumbles are currently playing out indicates the band didn't succumb to debut fever and shoot their wad on one album. Good thing. A recording this good deserves a quality follow-up. --Serene Dominic

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