Mike Younger

Every Stone You Throw

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The air of gravity surrounding hardscrabble former street musician Mike Younger lightens up significantly on Every Stone You Throw, his sophomore effort, but not so much that fans of his plaintive Rodney Crowell-produced debut, Somethin' in the Air, will want to switch him off in favor of grittier fare. There's still plenty of sorrow and wayfarer's blues to go around here -- check "Killlin' Time," with its lonely plea for the simple pleasure of company or "Something to Believe," on which the singer/songwriter works out that sustenance is a side effect of faith -- but this time Younger seems bent on billowing his past experiences as a drifter toward Friday-night tavern lights, not just the headspace of the down and out. You get the swamp-rockin' Stevie Ray Vaughan- and Creedence-inflected "Devil's on the Rise," for instance, to drum up visions of booze-fueled Crescent City debauchery, and you get the roadhouse rocker that is "Soulsearchin" to make you wish for a last call that never comes. Likewise, the winking spirits of Bo Diddley and John Lee Hooker shine through "Baby What Can I Say." But a couple of friendly pop-leaners early on -- "Dandelion" and "Make You Mine" -- come dangerously close to sounding like a dirtied-up version of the Wallflowers, and Younger, who has the cheese-grater-scraped voice of a John Mellencamp or Jakob Dylan and the stalwart soul of Steve Forbert, ought to steer clear of the fluffy stuff. As much as he deserves a high-five for fighting off poverty and following his dreams, literate-minded listeners will always prefer him down low.

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