Aw C'mon

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After the spare musical textures of Lambchop's 2002 album, Is a Woman, Kurt Wagner and his king-sized chamber pop ensemble have returned to full force with Aw C'mon, the first of two albums the group released on the same day in February 2004. Ambitious, eclectic, and boasting lush string charts performed by the Nashville String Machine (the orchestra-for-hire that has been adding countrypolitian polish to country & western recording sessions since the 1970s), Aw C'mon (as well as its sibling, No, You C'mon) easily trumps Nixon for widescreen musical grandeur, which makes for a lovely if puzzling contrast with the whispered thumbnail sketches of Wagner's lyrics and vocals. Delivered in a craggy murmur and often mixed low enough that one sometimes has to strain to hear them, Kurt Wagner's stories focus on the small details of life's big events rather than the shape of the larger picture, while his music builds an impressive sonic mosaic out of the assorted tones and textures of this 13-piece ensemble and the myriad pop, R&B, and country influences that inform his music. In fact, the album's instrumental cuts, "Being Tyler," "The Lone Official," and "Timothy B. Schmidt," pack nearly as much emotional resonance as most of the vocal numbers, which seems to reinforce the notion that Wagner is going for mood as much as message here. Aw C'mon is lovely, compelling, mysterious, and confounding; it's hard to know just what is supposed to lurk at the core of this music, but Lambchop have given listeners enough fine music that digging to the center is fine and rewarding work.

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