The Sovines

Stupefyin' Jones

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While the Sovines' 2000 album, The Sad Last Days Of..., was a genuine improvement over 1998's Truckers Welcome, 2002's Stupefyin' Jones proved that these guys have it in 'em to top even their best stuff with a bit of hard work. The Sovines' fourth studio release, Stupefyin' Jones doesn't rock quite as hard as The Sad Last Days Of..., but in terms of songwriting, performance, and production, it sets a new standard for one of the Midwest's best alt-country outfits. "This Day in History" and "The Life of Your Party" prove Matt Benz can write breakup songs as well as anyone in Nashville these days (if not better), and slice-of-life numbers like Bob Starker's "Where to Put My Hands" and Ed Mann's "Mary Ann MacLeod" show that beyond this band's love of a good laugh (and a good song about trucks), they can also tell stories about real people with heart, soul, and intelligence. Don't get the idea that these guys have forgotten how to kick it out, though; "No Kinda Man" gets the album off to a good stompin' start, and "Crackin' Up" and "What Was Wrong" make it clear they know how and when to turn it up and hit it hard. And whether they're playing cry-in-your-beer weepers or snarling rock & roll, this band sounds tight, emphatic, and thoroughly committed on all 14 cuts. I'm not sure just how the Sovines are going to be able to top Stupefyin' Jones, but if they can keep working at this level, it'll put them way ahead of the vast majority of American bands treading the boards these days.

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