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Les Dirt Clods
Earth Rooster
Rainydaylewis@juno.com

A few years back, Randolph Lewis was one half of the songwriting duo behind Come On Thunderchild, one of the more popular (and talented) local Charlotte bands of the last 10 or so years. Along with John Morris (now leading his own straight-ahead rock outfit, Tyre Fyre), Lewis appeared on the scene looking like something of a backwoods savant (even as his educational background included study at Davidson College), clad in T-shirt, paint-splattered pants, and boots. Playing rhythm guitar with great brush-like strokes of color, Lewis served as the John Singer Sargent of Charlotte rock forceful, considered, and the possessor of a considerable knack for miniaturist portraiture.

His post-Thunderchild work has been mainly centered around his band Les Dirt Clods (French for "The Dirt Clods," goes the joke), an act with enough balls to play straight-ahead gothic ballads alongside Faces-style roots rave-up, all tied up with some serious hotwire Southern soul. So: a band with most everything it could want a Charlie Watts-style drummer in David (DK) Kim, a slick bass player in Mark Lynch, a fleet-fingered fret-burner in Shawn Lynch, and a keyboardist, Justin Faircloth, with just enough soul to tie it all together. However: No record. No document, outside of a few live recordings pulled from area soundboards after the last empties and cigarette butts have been swept away. Until now, that is. At long last and in the immortal words of Layne Staley -- here comes the Rooster. Yet when you spend some three-plus years on a record, doubts naturally arise. You can polish the assembled rock-pile to perfection, but you can wear away the very edge that made the original stones (and, in the Dirt Clods' case, The Stones) unique in the first place.

But make no mistake there's plenty of gems here, from the consciousness stomp of "My Blues" to the lazy lament that is "Linda" to the miles-"n'-memories road-tripping of "Ringin' Bell." Sure, a couple of tracks might have benefited from a bit more barroom swagger, that mysterious energy John Fogerty used to call "chooglin'," but this is mere quibbling. Earth Rooster is probably stronger 1-10 than any regional record I've heard all year. They may call themselves Les Dirt Clods, but the music is diamond-like.

Rating: 1/2
-- Timothy C. Davis

Baleen
Sedate Everyone So You Can Get Away With Anything
Liquilab Records

Baleen is one of the most versatile bands you'll ever hear. Anywhere, any time. A top-notch rhythm section, three distinct vocalists, a restrained virtuosity, an amazingly broad musical vocabulary, and an explosive live show. Enjoy them now, here, while you still can.

Sedate Everyone So You Can Get Away With Anything expands upon 2001's Soundtrack to a Normal Life, while reigning in its excesses. This time around, the band has further abstracted itself while continuing its drive towards pop form. Everything sounds manipulated, cut apart, re-arranged and pasted back together like one of those pictures of a person made out of pictures of that person -- it's only when you sit back and listen that it regains focus.

Bits of techno, sampling, acoustic balladry, rock, soul, jazz, funk and more are thrown around, and there's a cluster of genre-fucking going on: "Faceless" could be an R&B/soul song, with Steve McMillian's bass leading the melody and Derek Hines' vocals effortlessly gliding above. But then guitars more suited to grunge come in, Hines starts yelling and the whole thing ends like Baleen are the Beatles circa "64, all harmony "woo woo's." "Magnifico the Mule" is staccato funk that sounds oddly German, with a slimy menace creeping underneath. The last three tracks are an abstract-techno-psychedelia suite of sorts.

Best of all, Baleen has the balls to tackle Can's "Vitamin C," surely one of the great Krautrock songs. Odd thing is, Baleen's cover might best the original, if only because it's longer, as a groove this deep should be. Hats off to drummer Mr. Phil Disher, who takes on Can's Jaki Leibezeit and comes out alive, if covered in sweat.

Still, Sedate... does meander at points. Sometimes songs get buried under production and solos that shine live seem a bit much on disc. For a band that thrives on spontaneity, they over-think a few ideas (mixing took over six months), working themselves into corners they can't just work out of. Still, it's a great record, brimming with creativity and talent, and you get the feeling that Baleen has the chops to do anything that they put their collective mind to. They won't be hanging around Charlotte too much longer, methinks.

Rating: 1/2
--Jesse Steichen

Jamie Hoover
Jamie Hoo-ever
Loaded Goat Records

Gaining its name from a misprint in the credits of a former Hoover project, Jamie Hoo-ever is a classic odds-and-ends collection of singles, most of which are covers Hoover has donated to various tribute/compilation efforts. There's the Traveling Wilburys' "Handle With Care" from a Jeff Lynne tribute record (the cheekily-titled Lynne Me Your Ears), a Klaatu track, "Silly Boys" (perhaps the best cut here -- the psychedelic overtones of the song fit Hoover like a Joseph-style coat of many colors), a Bobby Fuller track, a cover of "Sukiyaki," George Harrison's "It's Only a Northern Song," Todd Rundgren, Bob "Elusive Butterfly" Lind, Let's Active, The Everly Brothers, and of course the obligatory Beatles track, "Goodnight," which closes out the album. Whether or not you'll like this mostly depends on your opinions of the original tracks listed above. Hoover's versions are all respectful, relatively straight-on takes, colored with his own (power) pop art vision. Put another way: If you think rock ended with the Beatles, you'll love it. If you see the Beatles as trailblazers, however -- the Big Bang of rock and roll but merely a flashpoint in the ever-evolving musical universe -- you might wish for a little more fire and brimstone. For the choir, in other words.

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