Lost Souls

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As the Swinging Steaks abandoned their slick 1980s pop for country-rock when the 1990s came around, Mark Cutler's Raindogs did the same, but got it out of the starting gate a bit earlier on this Atco debut, Lost Souls. The album leans more to the rock than country side, with standout tunes like "Cry for Mercy" and "This Is the Place" among the dozen offered here. "I'm Not Scared" owes much to Gregg Allman and is decent, while "Phantom Flame" is extraordinary, up there with the best of the Swinging Steaks, Johnny Cunningham's fiddle and Cheryl Hodges' backing vocals bringing it that nice Rolling Stones feel when the greatest rock & roll band in the world gave its style a Flying Burrito Brothers flavor. "The Higher Road" and "Too Many Stars" are competent rockers though they don't burst out like some of the other tracks, and that's the downside here. Cutler's voice isn't distinctive enough to elevate some of the more pedestrian numbers and like another "critic's darling" band, the Tragically Hip, the lesser songs in the repertoire -- say "Nobody's Getting Out" -- weigh the other selections down like an anchor. Lost Souls is perfectly played material and an interesting debut, but there's not enough personality to send this over the top. "Cry for Mercy" sounds slightly like a harbinger of what Gregg Alexander and his New Radicals would bring to the world in 1998. Problem is, there's no "You Get What You Give" here, and that's what this singer/songwriter and his band were in dire need of. Nice to see Myanna Pontoppidan of Girls Night Out as part of the Hubcap Horns employed on this outing.

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