Dillon Fence

Best +

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During their early-'90s existence, Dillon Fence never broke beyond a small cult following, although ironically Hootie & the Blowfish took a very similar blend of Southern jangle pop and soul influences to the top of the charts just as their Carolina brethren were breaking up. (Hootie, who were friends and frequent bill-sharers with Dillon Fence in their early days, even slipped their buddies' name into the lyrics of their smash "I Only Wanna Be With You.") The two-disc Best + is a handy précis of the band's three albums and numerous EPs, distilling the group's uneven oeuvre into an 18-track runthrough of their best moments. Unfortunately, this unintentionally points up the group's primary failing: some of the lamest attempts at frat-boy funk ever committed to vinyl. Greg Humphreys' soul-inflected vocal style wasn't the problem; at his best, Humphreys sounds like a Southern-born heir to U.K. indie soulsters Edwyn Collins (Orange Juice) and Paul Heaton (the Housemartins, the Beautiful South), and the best songs here, like the dreamy, almost shoegazery "Collapsis," recall the heights of those singers mixed with a little dB's-style jangle. The problem came when the rest of the band tried to get down James Brown style, which led to missteps like "Something for You," an attempt at chicken-scratch dance-funk that makes the likes of the Spin Doctors sound downright soulful. The plus sign refers to the bonus disc, an EP's worth of new songs recorded in the spring of 2004 that are neither worse nor better than the ones on the main disc, highlighted by the winsome jangle pop of "I'll Learn" and marred by the eye-rolling fake nostalgia of the country-tinged "Simpler Times."

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