Dead Rock West

Bright Morning Stars

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Dead Rock West -- a duo comprised of singers Cindy Wasserman and Frank Lee Drennen -- has a deep line in West coast roots rock that taps into country, blues, R&B, and classic rock & roll. And on Bright Morning Stars, they cut out the musical middleman by directly embracing those roots. The pair's second outing, Bright Morning Stars is an album full of spiritually oriented tunes, mostly of trad provenance. The songs Wasserman and Drennen tackle here are most commonly associated with such legends of American music as Blind Willie Johnson and Mississippi Fred McDowell, but DRW also dips into rock, borrowing "God Help Me" from the Jesus & Mary Chain, and looking to the album's producer, Peter Case, for "Beyond the Blues," co-written by Case with Tom Russell and Bob Neuwirth. For the most part, though, Bright Morning Stars is a sweaty, swampy, bluesy album full of twangy explorations of humankind's own divine soul. And if you notice a bit of an X influence, the duo comes by it honestly: three members of X (singers John Doe and Exene Cervenka, and drummer D.J. Bonebrake) are heard on the album. Case and former Jayhawk Mark Olson also contribute to the soulful stew of Americana stirred up by Wasserman (sister of acclaimed bassist Rob Wasserman, in case you were wondering) and Drennen. It might not be the kind of thing you can bust out in church on Sunday, but Bright Morning Stars is nonetheless heavy with hymns from the heart.

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