Ernie Payne

Coercion Street

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Ernie Payne is that rarity, a singer/songwriter working in the blues tradition who isn't trying to sound just like either Howlin' Wolf or Robert Johnson. Choosing an enjoyably idiosyncratic approach in which he mixes some excellent steel guitar playing with folkish acoustic guitar and even some dulcimer, Payne takes an equally personal and non-standard approach to songwriting, largely ignoring the standard 12-bar form in favor of looser styles. Much of the record consists of solo performances, but even on full-band tunes like the almost singer/songwriter pop of "Listen to the Blues," the band, led by producer Rob Zucca, plays with delicacy and grace, not Chicago-style brawn. Highlights include the mournful "Pissin' in the Wind" (not the old Jerry Jeff Walker tune) and the album's one rocker, the sly "Nothing Wrong With Texas (That Leaving Won't Fix)," which recalls some of Robert Cray's best tunes.

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