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Music Reviews

Randy's Buttons

October 6, 1993

Pachyderm in Cannon Falls

Adam SchmittAdam Schmitt, Illiterature (Reprise 1993) -- Illiterature is the second disk by 24 year-old X-generationer Adam Schmitt. Schmitt rocks in the mold of E or Matthew Sweet: the music is straightforward guitars, drum, and bass, and bears a strong sense of questioning and a re-evaluation of values.

Following the release of his first album, Schmitt was involved in a traumatic car accident. While recuperating in his hometown of Champagne, Illinois, Schmitt got together with band members John Richardson (drummer), Brad Quinn (bass) and Jay Bennett & Tommy Keene (guitars) to prepare the songs for Illiterature.

As Schmitt notes, "before my accident, I had more of a dreamer's viewpoint: you saw the good and the bad, but it was a real romantic image of, 'this is right and this is wrong', so I am just going to write about it in vague terms. With [the new album], I am starting to realize that maybe things weren't as perfect as I perceived them before."

Recorded in the most unlikely of places (Cannon Falls, Minnesota), the album features 12 guitar-oriented songs that Schmitt says are "about things everyone goes through in life -- relationships, competing, gaining success or not in your chosen field, wanting to do well . . . If I weren't a musician, I would have these worries anyway."

Illiterature isn't the bouncy (and angst-ridden) pop in Matthew Sweet's releases: it's more in the mold of REM -- intelligent music with an edge to it. For good, honest rock, check out Illiterature.

Sweet ReliefVarious Artists, Sweet Relief, A Benefit for Victoria Williams (Chaos/Columbia 1993) -- Sweet Relief is the culmination of a project spearheaded by Sylvia Reed (Lou Reed's wife) to benefit 30-something singer/songwriter Victoria Williams, who was diagnosed with MS in 1992 while touring with Neil Young.

Like many artists (and regular folks), Victoria didn't have adequate health insurance, meaning that she lacked sufficient resources to pay her massive medical expenses. All of the proceeds from Sweet Relief will be applied against Victoria's medical expenses and to fund a Musician's Trust Fund, which will be established to assist other artists in similar predicaments.

Maybe Clinton's health care proposal isn't perfect (although hopefully it will be better than the Canadian health care/neo-socialist plan). In the case of Victoria Williams, the cause is clearly worthy, and the music is a fair match. The album consists of songs written by Victoria and performed by various artists, including up-and-coming Buffalo Tom, The Jayhawks (from Minneapolis), and Michelle Shocked (a quirky but very talented lady).

Also making appearances are sweet country singer Lucinda Williams, whose version of "Main Road" is a delight, Pearl Jam (I've seen Eddie Vedder live, and it was great -- the band's contribution on this disk is as steady as their reputation), and Lou Reed (who has gotten himself into a moody, deep funk lately from which he can't seem to escape).

Much though I hate to admit it, the highlight of the album is Maria McKee's version of "Sweet Relief." If you've read this column, you know I think that Maria McKee has been seriously overhyped. But her version of "Sweet Relief" shows what the hubbub is all about. Maria really belts out this tune in a swelling, powerhouse rendition.

Good cause, good songwriter, and good album -- Sweet Relief should not be overlooked.

-- Randy Krbechek

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