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Roll 'em Easy (11/19/99) Write to CD Shakedown
Kevin Welch, Beneath My Wheels (Dead Reckoning 1999) - After a four-year absence from the recording studio, singer Kevin Welch returns with the beautiful and somber, Beneath My Wheels. With his whiskey-tinged voice, Welch mixes elements of Delta blues with his brand of alt-country to produce a work that is engaging yet darker than his 1995 gem, Life Down Here on Earth.

Welch writes in the best tradition of the Americana school, along with such experts as Butch Hancock and Joe Ely. Or perhaps think David Wilcox, with a lot more soul.

Kevin WelchA restless sort, Kevin landed in Nashville in 1978, and worked as a songwriter for more than a decade, penning songs for such artists as Waylon Jennings, Trisha Yearwood, and Ricky Skaggs. After releasing two albums for Warner Reprise in the 1990s, Kevin cut loose to form his own record label, Dead Reckoning Records, together with kindred souls Kieran Kane, Tammy Rogers, Harry Stinson, and Mike Henderson.

Yet Kevin acknowledges that he has walked a difficult road. Says Welch, "Maybe I was trying too hard to do something. Maybe I just wanted to see how far in I could go and get back out again . . . I can't recommend it to anyone else. But it was sort of deliberate. I really sort of put my ass on the line and left it there for a long time. But I lived, and I'm back."

Kevin WelchMusicians on Beneath My Wheels include Kevin Welch on acoustic guitar and vocals, Mike Henderson on electric guitar, Harry Stinson on drums, Glenn Worf on bass, Kieran Kane on mandolin, Phil Jones on percussion, Fats Kaplin on accordions and pedal steel guitar, and co-producer Charlie White on backing vocals and occasional guitar.

Welch shows his bluesy influences on the album's leadoff track, "Everybody's Gotta Walk," while "Every Little Lie" is a full-tilt acoustic rocker. Yet Welch really shines when he displays his introspective side on songs like "Faith Comes Later" and one of the album's strongest tracks, "Anna Lise Please."

Kevin WelchHolding center stage throughout is Welch and his honest delivery. Explains Kevin, "For awhile there, while making this album, I felt like I was throwing myself against a brick wall. But now that it's out and people seem to like it, I'm finding that I like it quite a bit myself. So I'm having a lot of fun right now. And I'm not planning on letting four years pass again between records."

What the album lacks is the band's live sound: I've seen Kevin on stage, and he can knock your socks off. Still, Beneath My Wheels is a welcome serving from one of America's best singer/songwriters. Look for this album.

Jeremy TobackJeremy Toback, Another True Fiction (RCA 1999) - L.A.-based singer/songwriter Jeremy Toback delivers his second solo album in Another True Fiction. Building on an atmospheric rock sound, Toback also shows that he's fully comfortable with a pop hook.

Toback is no stranger to the studio, as he has previously recorded with Stone Gossard on the albums by Brad. The new album was co-produced by Toback and Marvin Etzioni, with additional assistance from John Shanks (who has worked with Melissa Ethridge) and Jeff Trott (who has worked with Sheryl Crow). Contributing to the challenging rock feel is Tchad Blake and Chris Lord-Alge, who helped mix the album.

Jeremy TobackAnother True Fiction has a solid rock feel, from "Will I Find You?" to the solid pairing of "You Make Me Feel," coupled with "Another True Fiction" (the highlight of the album). Toback mixes strong songwriting with pop chops and plenty of moody hooks, delivered with an assured voice.

Explains Toback, "I feel, without being presumptuous, the music on the record is timely. The themes - of going underneath, exploring, breaking down, and rebuilding - are universal and happening, something the world seems to be going through right now."

Jeremy TobackMusicians on the album include Toback on vocals and guitars, Mike Elizondo on bass, Marvin Etzioni on mandolin, with assistance from John Shanks on guitar, Greg Liesz on lap steel guitar, and David Raven on drums and percussion. Also making a guest appearance is Jules Shear, who helped co-write "Revelation."

Toback has an interesting sound that develops over time. Give a listen to this challenging songwriter.

Adam SandlerAdam Sandler, Stan and Judy's Kid (Warner Bros. 1999) - Now on his fourth comedy album, its time for someone to pull the plug on Adam Sandler records. Even if he is the label's biggest selling comedy act (see article).

I mean it. Sandler's a funny actor, and I enjoyed his latest film, "Big Daddy." Stan and Judy's Kid is not Ha ha, laugh out loud funny, though songs like "Seven Foot Man" and "Chanukah Song Pt. 2" may bring a smile to your face.

In concertYet tracks about peeping toms ("The Peeper") and running over people with power boats and cutting off their legs ("The Psychotic Legend of Uncle Donnie") aren't funny at all.

While Sandler may have scored hits with films like The Wedding Singer and The Waterboy, his albums fall flat. (And the track, "The Champion," is nothing but a lame ripoff of Happy Gilmore.) Stay away from this record.

- Randy Krbechek © 1999

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