American Music Club

California

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With the erratic California, Mark Eitzel's songwriting skills blossom into full maturity. From the pedal steel-inflected opener "Firefly" to the luminous "Western Sky," the best of his compositions reveal uncommon depth and emotional heft: "Somewhere" cuts with the savage humor of a master storyteller, while "Blue and Grey Shirt," a memoir of a friend's AIDS-related death, is simply devastating. A number of the cuts don't work at all -- the muddy "Bad Liquor" is an indecipherable rant, while "Laughing Stock" is by-the-numbers melodrama -- but those that do are nothing short of transcendent.

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