The Guthries

The Guthries

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The Guthries Review

by Mark Pytlik

With three of their five core members contributing original songs and swapping lead vocal duties accordingly, the Guthries have always run the risk of compromising their musical singularity in favor of group solidarity. Although it's ultimately a very strong album, their self-titled sophomore outing is nonetheless hindered by that very concession; it's not exactly felo-de-se by virtue of democracy, but it is frustratingly erratic. The initial temptation would be to paint the collective compositions of Dale Thomas and siblings Ruth and Gabriel Minnikin with the same (tiresome) alt-country brush, but closer scrutiny reveals a nagging fundamental difference across songwriters and compositional styles. The odd man out appears to be the brother Minnikin, whose relentlessly traditional honky tonk stompers seem consistently out of phase with Thomas and sister Ruth's more considered, contemporary offerings. The end result has Thomas' driving, dusky pop (witness the incredible "We Know What We're Doing," which sounds like the Jayhawks aiming to better Mercury Rev's "Goddess on a Hiway") and Ruth's bittersweet, heartfelt laments (the resigned "Careful Love") locked in a state of sympatico, while Gabriel's dusky baritone and cartoonish Westernisms clunk around unevenly, destitute and aimless. Alas, even if cohesiveness is of paramount importance, the album has too many uncommonly gorgeous high points not to recommend.

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