Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Critical Condition: Dave Matthews Band, Maria McKee

Just a couple of quick links to new reviews of two noteworthy 2005 releases:

1. David Martin, occasional guest critic at Reveal, has posted his thoughts on Dave Matthews Band's Stand Up. (And it ain't pretty.)

2. Jeffrey Overstreet has blogged about his first impressions of the new Maria McKee album, Peddlin' Dreams.

For what its worth, I still haven't heard the DMB album. I'm familiar with most of the group's recordings, and was impressed by some of the reflective, soul-searching lyrics on Busted Stuff ("Bartender" remains one of 2002's best songs), but, by and large, their music strikes me as placing too much emphasis on musicianship and too little emphasis on songcraft.

I have, however, heard McKee's new album, and it is indeed strong. It's an immensely sad recording, burded by broken hearts and lost love, but McKee finds such rich poetry in the midst of her sorrow that it's ultimately beautiful (and cathartic). Save for the last song-- a ridiculously out-of-place tune that sounds like it belongs in a Broadway musical-- it's an album of compelling American roots music, with tasteful arrangements that give McKee's voice a chance to take center stage.

One could almost call it this year's Sea Change. Or even Ohio. Not quite as brilliant as either of those albums, but cut from the same cloth.

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