John Wesley Harding

Awake

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Billed as John Wesley Harding and the Gangsta Folk, Dare seems to be an attempt to recast the singer/songwriter in a different light, incorporating elements of electronica to earn more street cred. The Gangsta Folk are in truth not a band, but rather Harding handling multiple instruments (often of the more exotic variety like e-bow, moogs, and mellotron), along with a few guests like Scott McCaughey, Robert Lloyd, Kelly Hogan, and pop purist Chris von Schneidern. And while the experimentation is implemented quite well -- especially in the lighter-and-match-strike percussion loop of "Burn" -- Harding's craft remains untouched. His acid-tongued, always-clever phrasing, folky leanings, and strong sense of melody show him to be one of the finest (and unfairly overlooked) songwriters of the '90s.

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