Sons of the Never Wrong

One If by Hand

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The folk trio Sons of the Never Wrong revel in their vocal interplay, Bruce Roper, Deborah Lader, and Sue Demel soaring and swooping around each other, repeating lines, harmonizing, and adding interesting musical tags to their melodies. The music they conjure is folk-plus: acoustic guitar-based tunes with lots of added elements, especially isolated strings and percussion that mirror the vocals' attractive mixing. The result is ear candy that has only one major flaw, but it's a big one. In folk music, lyrics matter, and Roper, who wrote eight of the 13 songs here, is a pretentious and obscure lyricist who tends to follow metaphors into absurdity rather than tying them to any meaning. He name-drops to no purpose -- Janis Ian gets her name misspelled in the lyric sheet and "Jonah" and Peter, Paul and Mary turn up in "Teva," though the way these names are used suggests Roper just liked the sound of them -- and he is not above misusing or creating words when he can't get his lines to work out otherwise. In "One Simple Question," the word "lance" is changed nonsensically into "lancer" for the sake of a rhyme, while "Hallelujah for the Getaway" coins "disorté" apparently because Roper couldn't fit in the word "dissertation." This kind of bad writing might be less noticeable if Deborah Lader's two songs didn't mark her as such a superior writer. "My Last Boyfriend," a touching account of an encounter with an old flame, is by far the album's best song, and "Magnetic Poetry" is sweet. Even Sue Demel outdistances the group's main writer with her religious "Home Hymn." Sons of the Never Wrong would be wise to make more extensive use of its distaff songwriters on subsequent releases unless Roper can learn to rein in his self-involved, willfully obscure verbosity.

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