Ed Kuepper

Character Assassination

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With the gorgeous, low volume flow of "By the Way" kicking things off, his voice sounding all the more strong against the music yet somehow still loaded with fragility, Kuepper once again demonstrates his talent for instantly appealing, addictive music on Character Assassination. The whole album is for the most part a stripped-down experience, not an unplugged or wholly acoustic effort by any means and often taking a faster pace, but eschewing Kuepper's fiercer guitar work and fuller arrangements for a calmer, less explosive turn. Songs like "Ill Wind" could explode, for instance, but that track builds up a full head of steam without ever completely ripping loose, and without needing to. There are the occasional familiar horn section parts, though they take it easier on this album than at many points elsewhere, while the dreamier post-punk side of Kuepper's electric guitar playing is center stage. When it comes to his supporting players, special mention should definitely go to Linda Neil, whose haunting violin work on many tracks, such as the striking, tense "The Cockfighter," featuring just her work and Kuepper's vocals and acoustic turn. Many songs have a live, immediate feeling -- check out his singing on "Little Fiddle (And the Ghost of Xmas Past)." Certainly it's a treat to hear someone working where mature years doesn't mean boringly "mature" music. Even when something like "I'm With You" almost sounds like his equivalent of a VH1 entry, it has a lovely grace in both the singing and playing that the likes of Eric Clapton or Dave Matthews can only dream about. In a lovely blend of Australian music traditions, jew's harp, harmonica, and didgeridoo all add to the swampy, mysterious feeling of "La Di Doh," all while Kuepper's careful singing and performing marks it as his song in the end. The wonderful cover of "Ring of Fire" alone is reason to investigate this excellent album.

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