John Wesley Coleman III

The Love That You Own

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Part of the beauty of calling yourself a trash poet is that it keeps the audience's expectations in check -- hey, if it's supposed to be trash, that means it can be real sloppy and who is going to care? John Wesley Coleman III has certainly played that card in the past, and there's more than a little playful chaos going on in his 2014 long-player, The Love That You Own. But the result plays less like trash than a cool rummage-sale find, with Coleman delivering a set of ramshackle tunes that get over nicely on their charm, heart, down-to-earth smarts, and stitched-together tunefulness, while a handful of friends back him up who occasionally get lost but still seem to know how to follow the leader when they have to. Coleman's songs are the scrappy stuff of real lives, whether he celebrates well-spent days in his basement ("Liz Hitt Queen of the Midwestern Underground"), ponders the life and work of one of his favorite musicians ("Silver Jews"), offers some hard-won wisdom about relationships (the title track), or enjoys the musician's life ("Hanging with the Band"). Coleman isn't a great singer, but he's a good one, and he certainly makes the most of his songs, bringing the listener into his universe with enthusiasm and empathy, and the band seems to know when to dive into the noisy end of the pool and when to pull back. And producer Louie Lino keeps the whole show running just as smoothly as it needs to, without trying to impose an excess of order on Coleman's party. The Love That You Own is smart, funny, heartfelt, and it rocks, and if it does all that even while it occasionally threatens to fall apart, that makes Coleman's accomplishment all the sweeter.

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