Fletcher Harrington

Eyes on Fire & Knuckles Sore

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The leader of Orange County, CA's roots pop alt-country group Cowboy Buddha steps out as a solo artist on this, his first solo LP, without changing the formula much -- which is fine. Perhaps Harrington has too reedy a voice to make it as one of the leading lights of the No Depression scene, but as a songwriter he shows flashes. And his recordings are homespun, not-too-crafty, happy-go-lucky country and country-rock that doesn't slavishly nod to the godfather of Americana, Gram Parsons, as much as others in the field. (Though at his best, on the more saddening ballads like the piano-sighing "Paralyzed," he prospects some of that same bittersweetness as the two "Hot Burrito"s.) That's because Harrington has a much wider swath of influence. Not only is he a fan of classic '60s pop, but also the Minutemen (with whom he shares an instant economy on his recording, though his music is nothing like theirs) and Hüsker Dü, and confounds all boxes one could place him in by doing a totally slowed-down country cover of the Smiths' Louder Than Bombs B-side scorcher "London," during the closing, multi-suite, Neil Young-ish "Coming Apart at the Scenes." Huh! No song is like the last, and the tunes themselves are convincing. So once you grow used to his warble, often singing with Patti Parnell of Eating Venus, fans of this style begin to appreciate a hearty chap.

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