Music Reviews

The Trouble with Sweeney

Dear Life

Burnt Toast Vinyl

I’m not all that familiar with Philadelphia’s indie scene. I’m not sure if there’s other groups like The Trouble with Sweeney in the City of Brotherly Love who are as maverick with alt-country-rock. Alt-country might be a little misleading, but Dear Life has an unmistakable folk-powered, urban rusticity to it. This CD brings to mind the sound of fellow travelers like Sunvolt, Wilco, Damien Jurado, Golden Smog, Neil Young, and especially Star Hustler. Sweeney’s vocals swing-low-sweet-wagon-wheel much the way Star Hustler’s frontman Jason Hatfield’s do. They often come off sounding like Joe Pernice’s • especially with all that folk-breathiness Pernice used on his magnum opus, Overcome By Happiness. Like other indie-country parvenus, including Star Hustler, and to a lesser extent, Beachwood Sparks, The Trouble with Sweeney isn’t as bound to Gram Parsons worship as the alt-country crowd is. Of course, Wilco tried to break the mold on “Summer Teeth,” but the jury•s still out on that one (and it might never come back).

Needless to say, and without resorting to bashing the No Depression set, there’s something unique and exciting to a disc like Dear Life. It adds up to a great LP, especially deserving heavy rotation on the CD players of all those young indie rascals who like alt-country, but are sometimes off-put by its quaint old-fangledness. Albeit, there are moments for everyone on Dear Life: up-tempo pop bliss as well as brooding numbers like “Master of the Scouts,” “The Ghosts of ‘97,” and “That’s What I Was Wearing That Day.” The faster pace tunes are truly incredible. They bring to mind Cotton Mather (minus that group’s XTC-pop psychedelia). There’s an infectious bounciness and groove to songs like “$500-A-Day Hall of Mirrors,” “Kitty,” and “Is That Your Car?” (Are the trumpets on “Is That Your Car?” using the same charts that Chicago did in the early ’70s?) There are wonderful little surprises around every corner.

Burnt Toast Vinyl, PO Box 42188, Philadelphia, PA 19101,

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