William Topley

Feasting With Panthers

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Opening with a wailing blues harp and a Van Morrison-like growl,William Topley's major-league outing, Feasting With Panthers, from Lost Highway, offers a sultry mix of rocking blues and world rhythms, complete with big horn and vocal arrangements. You'll find this British-born artist, previously of the Blessing, gets around. Topley's romantic, referential songs, most co-written with other songwriters, including bandmates Luck Brighy and Jim Kimberley, are set against a shifting backdrop of exotic locations from Cuba ("La Habana") and the Deep South ("Magnolia") to the Caribbean ("Excuses"), among other hotspots, often lamenting a squandered love or the wiles of some archetypal beauty. "I heard stories that would make a tyrant weep," croons Topley on "Highway One." The concept brings to mind Bob Dylan's Desire, but Topley's travelogues doesn't conjure the same magic. Emotionally charged songs often take poppy turns, such as on "Soul I Want," "Los Largos," and "Desire is Sad." While sophisticated, the sound is also less moving. Topley's global view is admirable, but the result feels a bit forced.

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