Backstreets of Desire
Since DeVille's last effort, Tower Records stopped stocking vinyl, Doc Pomus passed away and John Cougar went Mellencamp. What hasn't changed is DeVille's voice (except it's got a lot more phlegm in it now) and his overriding passion for Brill Building songwriting (he dedicated the CD to the late Pomus). Like Mellencamp, DeVille stirs lots of accordions and mandolins into his roots-rock mix. "Even While I Sleep" is Ben E. King's "Spanish Harlem" as seen through zydeco eyes, while "Hey Joe" is given the full "Guantanamera" treatment with a mariachi orchestra. Once, during the dawn of Springsteen, the playing field was overcrowded with "tough but tender" daddies singing about the street and their place in relation to it. Now that they're a dying breed, DeVille merits a second look. Unlike the Boss, Willy's never gonna get rich helping people who want to remember the past or forget the future. If street credibility still means anything to you, DeVille's heart is closer to the curb than Bruce's could ever be again.--Serene Dominic Marty Brown
Cryin', Lovin', Leavin'
Fact one: Marty Brown is the finest country-western stylist this side, that side or inside of Nashville, Tennessee. Fact two: Unless you buy Cryin', Lovin', Leavin', his third album for MCA, you won't get to hear him because the radio won't play him.
Lordy, it's a cryin' shame, too. Yet aficionados who "discovered" Brown through his ethereal debut disc, High and Dry, or the follow-up, Wild Kentucky Skies, are going to positively wahoo over the Maceo, Kentucky, boy's latest. Truthfully, too, y'all probably don't mind much having this secret to yourselves.
From the Fifties-style billy blues of "Too Blue to Crow" (featuring brother Mike Brown's sassy mouth harping) through the sparely arranged weeper "Summer's Gone" to the Buddy Holly-style, rocking title track, Brown displays his wealth of talents as a performer, musician and writer. Those who appreciate his mournful, mountaintop wails, la "High and Dry," will find cause to play "Shameful Lies" again and again while bawling into a Bud. Co-written with Odie Blackmon and caressed by Melba Montgomery's sublime vocal accompaniment, this is rich, powerful balladeering, as is "Why Do You Crucify Me," a Luke the Drifter-flavored complaint that will make you so lonesome you could cry.
Richard Bennett again defies the Nashville norm by producing Brown with kid gloves. There was a bare-bones minimum of overdubbing and other studio trickery involved in creating Cryin', Lovin', Leavin', and for a label notorious for heavy-handed, string-machine production, MCA is to be most enthusiastically applauded for continuing its policy of letting nature take its course with Marty Brown. The yield here is no less than unadulterated, old-timey country music, like it used to be and like it ought to be.
South Central Cartel
N Gatz We Truss
Guns, gatz, glocks--the title says it all. Without question, South Central Cartel--composed of six brothers hailing from south central L.A.--is by no means upholding the imagery of the successful, refined, happy, "proud to be Black" blacks.
Instead, SCC reports on the nuances and resilience of America's best-kept secret, the Black ghetto. The brothers' lyrics drag you onto their turf and educate you about all facets of neighborhood realities, from how they deal with their enemies and what kind of guns they pack to how they (mis)treat their women. Listeners are taken on a trip via nothing but the usual, blood-soaked gangsta lyrics, and the beats often sound like reject sound effects from The Chronic and Doggystyle. No wonder N Gatz We Truss comes off as generic gangsta rap; we've heard Ice Cube do it and Snoop Doggy Dogg say it all before.
Musically, SCC's medley of tight snippets of George Clinton played by live musicians gives you something to ride to in your drop top, but lyrically, the album is no different from any other gangsta CD. While tracks such as "U Couldn't Deal Wit Dis" assume a recognizable funk groove and "Gang Stories" is a definite head nodder, the rest slips away and lacks originality. You'd be better off catching this on the airwaves than purchasing the CD in its entirety.
Word has it that this could be the last hunk o' Superchunk we'll ever hold in our hot little hands, but it's hard--based on this offering--to figure whether the band's potential breakup is a foolish move. This batch of tunes is not without its highlights--both "Saving My Ticket" and "Driveway to Driveway" rank up there with other great Superchunk faves like "Slack Motherfucker." "Driveway," in particular, chugs along like a grungy revisitation of Them's "Here Comes the Night," and is the obvious single choice here. Although the material starts wearing thinner than Mac's reedy voice midway through, it recovers in time for a grand finale. If this is really the end of the line, "In a Stage Whisper" provides a suitably chilling and paranoid final bow to the fans. Here, Mac wonders which malevolent admirers have his telephone number and are packing clippers to better secure a lock of his hair. "Paint a target on your chest to make it easy for the hunters," he sings, making you wonder if he's leaving for a solo career or another profession in which he won't be so readily admired. Like, oh, rock criticism?