John Wesley Harding

John Wesley Harding's New Deal

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Four years passed since John Wesley Harding's previous long-player, and it seems he spent the time "growing up" a bit, shaking once and for all the image of Elvis Costello's smart-ass kid brother. John Wesley Harding's New Deal (the title presumably referring to his parting of ways with Sire and his new signing to Forward Records) finds a gentler Harding doing some soul-searching on his most introspective outing to date. Continuing the trend set by 1992's Why We Fight, the album's warmer production -- bare-bones arrangements consisting mainly of acoustic guitar with subtle use of violin, cello, Hammond organ, and pedal steel -- creates the appropriate intimate setting for the subject matter. Thankfully, the new John Wesley Harding's songs are still as clever as ever and, in a different way, just as catchy and memorable.

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