Big in Iowa

Twisted

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Twisted, for all intents and purposes, sounds like an imaginary collaboration between Van Morrison and the Rolling Stones -- a raw, emotional, and fun piece of rocking country-soul. Of course, there are bits of other artists -- namely Gram Parsons, Neil Young, CCR, the Band, and John Hiatt -- packed into the Big In Iowa equation, but influences hardly matter, other than as points of reference, when you make such a stellar album. There is nothing exactly fancy or tricky about Big In Iowa. They play straight-ahead, no-frills country-rock without offering any apologies or rationalizations. The Van Morrison comparison is predominantly a result of Bob Burns' tremendous voice, which nails all the appropriate soul inflections and nuances. "Is This Love?" opens the album with a Morrison-meets-country-rock pastiche. The profoundly titled "Life Takes Place" is, again, soulful Van Morrison, right down to Burns' "la la la la"s. In fact, it may be the greatest Van Morrison song not by Morrison himself. Then there is "Justine (The Acid Queen)," which, with its wonderfully ragged harmonies, could be straight from the Band's early catalog. But it isn't appropriate to simply situate Big In Iowa in Morrison's or anyone else's shadow, for Twisted is an accomplished work by an accomplished band that isn't dwelling in the past, but extending a legacy, the legacy of full-throttle Midwest rock.

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