John Hermann

Defector

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On his second solo outing, the Widespread Panic keyboard player keeps all the down-home elements that made the first such a joy. The Dickinson brothers from the North Mississippi Allstars keep it all very greasy, while two members of R.L. Burnside's band help it all stay rooted in the Delta. Once again, the lyrics are typically twisted, as a listen to the dangerous edge of "Mrs. Brown" or the creepy "The True Blood Assembly Of Ravensville" attest. They're not Southern Gothic, although there's an element of that, more just strange and bizarre; which is a good thing. Hermann's added guitar to his musical arsenal, but it's his fat keyboard sound that's the pleasure here. He's never fancy, just giving enough to push the song along. And he's as comfortable with the country-ish "Smoking Factory" as the blues tones of "And You Wonder Why." He doesn't have the best voice in the world, but he uses it effectively, thanks to the miracle of multi-tracking. Kim Keys proves a good vocal foil on the crying of "Step on Over Me" while Glen Duncan's violin moves front and center for the rock & roll of "Aim to Speed." If you want roots music, the roots don't come much deeper than this.

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