Chris Cacavas

Dwarf Star

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Sounding like a cross between the sweetest aspects of early David Crosby and Neil Young, West Coast country-rocker Chris Cacavas unplugs for his seventh solo outing. And while it doesn't sound like either the Byrds or CSNY, there are definite strains of early Buffalo Springfield in the ringing songs, edgy lyrics, and Cacavas' stunningly subtle vocals. Even though the unplugged atmosphere keeps the volume sedate, there is nothing pretty or low-key about songs like "Honking at Demons," the disc's centerpiece that winds, coils, and slithers like an angry rattlesnake. "This Is It" adds a bluesy twist to its ballad structure, radically changing direction into a sad folk song with a unique and unexpected R&B edge and some beautifully understated mandolin. The frequent use of that instrument throughout this album adds a "Losing My Religion" quality, especially on Matthew Sweet's "Someone to Pull the Trigger," the album's lone cover. "I Like Lyle Lovett" is a dryly humorous song, not necessarily about the titular artist since the singer also likes "making friends" and rock & roll equally as much. The title track is a funereal solo piano ballad, and sounds the most like plaintive aspects of Neil Young, especially when Cacavas accompanies himself on high-lonesome harmonica. "Song 33," a snappy blues instrumental, is the album's last selection and is separated from the rest by 23 cuts of silence, a pretentious and annoying move that closes this excellent release on a slightly sour note.

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