Everlast

Love, War and the Ghost of Whitey Ford

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Ten years after he relaunched his solo career with the "roots rap" album Whitey Ford Sings the Blues, former House of Pain leader Everlast has succumbed entirely to the contemporary alt-rock blues. His 2008 release, Love, War and the Ghost of Whitey Ford, is more in line with the work of G. Love & Special Sauce, Keb' Mo', or Popa Chubby than it is with any hip-hop act, save the cover version of "Folsom Prison Blues," which comes with an "Insane in the Membrane" backbeat thanks to producer and Cypress Hill member DJ Muggs. The track seems out of place on an album so dark, swampy, and disgusted with both society and self, but it's the kind of sweet relief that's called for after being pummeled by the death threat junta "Kill the Emperor" or driven to crimes of passion by the manic "Anyone" (as in "I'll kill anyone for you"). By the time "Naked" rolls around with its Emperor's New Clothes metaphor and equally overdone "The rich get richer/The poor get poorer" hook, it seems the songwriter has more venom than ideas, but this 17-track downer works well enough with some effort and trimming. It's earthshaking when Everlast's rich, rough baritone meets the plodding, gargantuan gospel of "Everyone," while highlight "Die in Yer' Arms" brings the Black Snake Moan atmosphere to downtown club culture as it lustfully drools all over the dancefloor. The war-torn "Letters Home from the Garden of Stone" towers above it all with its helicopter noises plus chilling tale of life on the front lines, and both "Stone in My Hand" and "Weakness" are redemption anthems that will satisfy sinners looking to be saints. They are the target audience and -- along with the Everlast faithful -- the ones who will find this heavy, rap-free album rich and rewarding instead of desolate and ponderous.

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