Steve Almaas

Kingo a Wild One

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Steve Almaas spent the late '70s and early '80s hopping from genre to genre, from the punky Suicide Commandos to the pop-quirky Crackers to the roots-rocking Beat Rodeo, with whom Almaas recorded his finest-ever song, 1985's "Just Friends." His solo career has been considerably more low-key and less bandwagon-esque, and his third solo effort is a relaxed pop/rock album with a pronounced country tinge that should appeal to any Marshall Crenshaw or Don Dixon fan. Kingo a Wild One (the song of that title sheds no light on what on earth that's supposed to mean) features a number of guests who are stars in some alternate pop reality (Nashville sessionman Kenny Vaughan, Hoboken pop stalwarts Doug Wygal and Richard Barone, blues-rocker Chris Whitley, and ex-Holly & the Italians bassist Mark Sidgwick), but it's Almaas' show all the way, and he delivers the most consistently catchy and exciting group of songs of his entire career. The British Invasion-ish "Pretty Picture" and the rollicking title track are particular standouts, but nearly every song features a memorable chorus or an appealing instrumental idea, like the Stax/Volt-style horn section that gooses the peppy "The Better in Us." Almaas sings better than ever before in his career, reining in the exaggerated faux twang that marred the Beat Rodeo albums. This is a solid, mature pop record, and the most consistently strong work Almaas has yet done, just about a quarter-century into his career. Who would have guessed?

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