Ever since Elton John and Bernie Taupin released Tumbleweed Connection a variety of artists have dipped into that old west quasi-country world, a place somewhere between Triple A and country radio, but not really part of either. "Acadian Driftwood" is a strong opening track, pedal steel, accordion and violin all played with a grasp of what the methodical and understated artist has in mind. Understated in a good way, mind you, as the Bob Dylan cover "Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)" blends a Gordon Lightfoot type of melancholy with superb ethereal electric slide guitar. "The Humpback Whale," on the other hand, is a perfect theme to Sena Jeter Naslund's novel Ahab's Wife, Richard Shindell moving to different imaginary settings, old west to the high seas. His rendition of Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A." is definitive -- you can actually understand the lyrics while the arrangement, production and execution are all superior to Springsteen's bark. This artist performs the cover as if he wrote it and puts real love into the rendition. Quite a revelation as well as a statement on Shindell's contributions which have not been fully recognized at the time of this release. "Sitting on Top of the World" is another example of taking well-worked material and making it a cohesive part of this collection, putting his signature on music that in lesser hands would just come off stale. Whether it's the elegant harmonies on "Mercy Street" or the subtle guitar strums of "The Storms Are on the Ocean," the intent is effectively projected on this highly listenable excursion to different lands and different times. "Northbound 35" perfect for a sequel to Brokeback Mountain, that pensive mood with reflective lyrics -- "what's beautiful is broken" to "I never even kissed you on the mouth/And he said goodbye" -- territory Lou Reed covered on his Berlin album though here it is more sad than dark. The 12 tracks combine to draw out an eloquent dialogue, the music a delicate and perfect counterpoint to the ideas Richard Shindell expresses to the listener on this superior release.
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AllMusic Review by Joe Viglione