The Coal Porters

Los London

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After the breakup of the Long Ryders, Sid Griffin packed up his bags and moved to England, forming the Coal Porters with a revolving cast of British musicians. The typically punning title for the band's second full-length album, Los London, reflected the push and pull between Griffin's California heritage and his new surroundings in the U.K. The album finds Griffin not straying far from the path of his previous work; it's a set of strong roots-oriented rock tunes with a decided country influence (though the twang is a bit less pronounced than in the Long Ryders' best-known stuff) and witty/intelligent lyrics that betray an interest in progressive politics (especially "A Jacobite at Heart" and "It Happened to Me"). Griffin's longstanding fascination with Gram Parsons also makes its presence known with a graceful cover of "Apple Tree," a rare Parsons copyright that was previously recorded by Johnny Rivers, of all people. But the biggest difference between Los London and Griffin's best work is that, quite frankly, the band working with Griffin just isn't as strong. While Griffin himself is as sound as ever, the assorted backing musicians (bassist Pat McGarvey is one of the few constants throughout this set) generally sound competent but uninspired, and the album's slightly flat, generic-sounding production doesn't help matters much; while there's nothing strikingly wrong with the album, most of the time it fails to connect the way it should. Los London leaves little doubt that Sid Griffin's talents as a singer and songwriter followed him as he crossed the pond, but it also suggests that the talent pool available to him isn't what it once was; it would be nice to hear these songs with a better (and more passionate) set of players than those who populate Los London.

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