A.C. Cotton

Half Way Down

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The opening "The Death of Me" sets the tone for the entirety of half way down. Armed with just an acoustic guitar and his voice, Alan Charing, in just over a minute of strummed country-folk, symbolically kills his solo self, takes the new name "Cotton," and heads south. His new four-piece then erupts with an explosive sound that is equal parts Southern rock, propulsively country-tinged lo-fi pop, and sardonic punk catharsis. Whiskey-pickled electric guitars and A.C. Cotton's powerful rhythm section shreds Charing's previous Bob Dylan leanings and replaces them with invigorating punch that is tough as a two-day drunk, and just as deeply felt. The album has a raggedly soulful heart, perfectly in keeping with the track record of its already semi-legendary (at least in indie circles) producer, Luther Russell. Russell makes sure to let Charing's songs stand on their own two road-worn legs, which is appropriate, since the majority are wonderfully dusted and cynical treats, charting their creator's often bitter disappointments and resentments with life. Russell also managed to harness A.C. Cotton's potent brawn, and the songs end up sounding like hard and agitated gems as a result, loaded with an attitude that -- with only a couple exceptions, like the breezy twang of "Lucky Thirteen" -- could pass muster at CBGB's as well as in hardcore honky tonks. The band also enables Charing to free himself of some of his burdens, to finally come to a "New Independence Morning," a fresh break. By the time half way down gets to gorgeous piano ballad "All the Way Back to Zero," a dead ringer for Randy Newman, you feel like you've made quite a liberating journey too, all the way back to where you began.

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