Eleventh Dream Day

Lived to Tell

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Recorded, as the credits state and a photo in the album artwork confirms, "in a tobacco barn on the Niland's farm in Cub Run, Kentucky." Whether that provided the air of ripping, fiery country-goes-to-hell guitar work that permeates Lived to Tell may not be known, but clearly the setting didn't hurt the band any. Whatever pressure from Atlantic came down to record something user friendly, Eleventh Dream Day stuck to its guns with fine results on its second major-label effort. Rizzo and Beveridge Bean make a fantastic pair of front singers, strong without being overbearing, on joint harmonies hitting something not far off from the brilliant combination of X's John Doe and Exene Cervenka. "I Could Be Lost" isn't merely a great example of that but one of the album's best songs, leading into a blasting instrumental break and brilliant guitar solo while the band raves it up behind. When Beveridge Bean takes over lead, as on "You Know What It Is," nothing about the intensity or ability differs -- Freakwater's frontwoman had already proved herself times over before that band had issued a note. Figi's electrified lapsteel, as noted, adds fierce explosive power to songs like "Dream of a Sleeping Sheep." Together, he and Rizzo kick out the jams so righteously it almost hurts -- the rise of grunge in public eyes may have made people think then of Neil Young, but it's clear he already had two solid disciples. Even slower numbers like "Frozen Mile" crackle with a sharp energy. A few guest performances don't hurt at all -- some tenor sax on "There's This Thing" and both calliope and cello on the waltz-time "Daedalus" -- but mostly this is Eleventh Dream Day ripping through a set of smart songs with all the wired passion one could ever want.

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