Formerly the pride of Muscle Shoals, AL, Western Civ consolidates its move to the Tarheel State of North Carolina -- and the college town of Chapel Hill -- by inducing a local legend, veteran producer Mitch Easter, to handle their second album, Shower the People You Love with Gold. Easter gives them the kind of record he's been known for dating back to the early R.E.M. and his own band, Let's Active, full of songs in which ringing, chiming guitar textures dominate, with the vocals deliberately under-mixed, such that what matters are the riffs and the groove. Guitarist/singer Rich Henderson is a willing co-conspirator in the effort, even getting a co-mixing credit, although it's his voice (and one supposes, his dreamy lyrics) that are being de-emphasized. He's no Michael Stipe, however, and unlike the R.E.M. singer can't convey feelings and even meaning by the sheer force of his voice. Rather, the approach makes the music sound somewhat unfinished. Western Civ has a distinct band sound, however, even if the band has gotten smaller (officially anyway: multi-instrumentalist Jason Hall has been demoted to sideman status while retaining co-songwriting credits). That and a busy touring schedule should buy them time to develop more as a studio outfit. For now, "promising" seems to be the operative word.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann