Douglas September

Ten Bulls

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This national debut from singer/songwriter Douglas September is a somewhat mixed affair, with its supremely derivative premise yet occasionally touching lyricism. September's subdued delivery and overall approach is more than just Dylanesque, it's almost a tribute that while sincere, is hard to appreciate for its own vision and quality. Joining September on guitar is jazz legend Bill Frissel in a somewhat placid mode, and a lineup that includes drummer Michael Shrieve, bassist Michael Rhodes, and keyboardist Wayne Horvitz. Ten Bulls relies almost entirely on September's lyrics, as the songwriter's whispering vocals are unfortunately yet necessarily matched in understatement by his talented list of supporting musicians. The production is perhaps a little too clean, leaving each track in a strange soft rock purgatory, hardly ever punctuating the varied and sometimes eloquent lyrics with colorful flurries or punch. The record's best track, "That Country Is So Far Away," works in part because the delicate accompaniment almost disappears behind September's tender poetry. But the rest of the record lacks this or just about any instrumental dynamic -- outside of the room temperature vibe that surrounds the songwriter in a sanguine, inert hue. Ten Bulls does advance September's vision with a respectable clarity, but a production approach more in touch with the songwriter's earthiness might have made it stronger and worthy of something more than a lukewarm recommendation.

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