Saturday, November 12, 2005

XM in depth: Channel 12

OK, it's been a while since my last entry in the tour of XM's music channels, and I'd better hurry, since I haven't decided whether I'm re-upping my subscription at the end of the year.

On to Channel 12, X Country, which was actually one of my presets at one time but not one I checked out that often. It's modern, progressive country, which includes a fair amount of decent stuff and should be an interesting ride.

Lonesome Goat, Nicotine -- Bluesy, with a rollicking acoustic bass line and shimmering guitar lines. Sounds like they had two distinctly different lead lines in addition to an active bass, so it's a little more chaotic than a typical rockabilly song. Not a bad start.

Poco, Shake It -- This could easily pass for an Eagles song -- vocals even sound a bit like Don Henley. In fact, there is some overlap between the band's personnel and The Eagles' ranks, though in a country-rock band dating back to 1968, that's inevitable. isn't kind to this 2002 effort, but I wasn't as disappointed.

Derailers, Your Guess As Good As Mine -- Chorus sounds exactly like Achy Breaky Heart. That's unforgivable.

Phil Lee, A Night in the Box -- This ode to having sex in a trailer has some solid guitar work, even if it's a little too easy to picture people line-dancing to it. Gotta like a guy willing to admit his place "smells like socks." Guess he knows he's a good enough guitarist to make up for it.

Staid Cleaves, Breakfast in Hell -- Supposedly live at XM, and it sounds pretty good. Mostly simple vocal with strummed acoustic guitar and some lead guitar that's subtle in the verses before unleashing a couple of tasteful breaks. The lyrics try a little too hard to tell a sad tale of hard-working people down on their luck.

Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash, King of the World -- Rivals Bon Jovi's mid-80s work in terms of fitting cliches into a song. (Thank you, ancient Rolling Stone review ripping Slippery When Wet.) Mercifully short.

Robert Earl Keen, Tom Ames' Prayer -- At first, I thought this was Tori Amos' Prayer, which would have been interesting. But this one is intriguing on its own merits. One verse compares praying to begging, and I have to admit that's how some denominations sell it. (I won't name them because I don't want my comments to turn into a nasty theological debate.) The fiddle trades solo licks with the low strings of an electric guitar, and everyone involved can play.

Neal Coty, Tainted -- It opened like Weezer's overplayed Beverly Hills (surely they have better songs than that on this release?), and Coty sounded like John Waite at his pre-emo worst on the bridge. Add the line "it was my heart you were screwing," and you have a train wreck.

Hal Ketchum, Don't Let Go -- Straight out of the '40s in its corny stop-start action and insincere vocals, but overproduced like it was straight from the Meat Loaf catalog. The backup chorus chants "Oooo-eee" and "Awww, shucks!" The guitar riffs are boring by any standard. Another recipe for disaster.

Steve Earle, Once You Love -- Not one of his best. It's a mid-tempo ballad with plodding tom-toms and dreary steel guitar.

Dave Alvin, King of California -- Strange one. A slow song built on fast acoustic picking. It's at its best when the lead guitar and drums kick in. Sadly, they drop back into the background most of the time. The pieces of a good song are there. I wonder if Alvin would consider taking another shot at recording it.

The Flatlanders, Whistle Blues -- As you can guess from the name, it's a little cliched. A few neat twists, like the ghostly effects, but not enough to make this worth a second listen.

Daddy, Cold Chill -- A mid-tempo effort with some strong riffs and a slow, menacing bass line. Not a bad way to end.

I can listen to this stuff. Still not looking forward to "Hank's Place," which is next.

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