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Sound Bites: Audio Reviews

February 3, 1998

``Lover’s Knot″ (Capitol) _ Jeb Loy Nichols

If John Hiatt and Al Green hung out in London with UB40 and then put out an album with Daniel Lanois, it might sound as cool as this. In a soft nasal twang, Jeb Loy Nichols sings low-key songs that seamlessly blend elements of soul, folk and country with gently chugging rhythms. Members of the Jazz Passengers add some fine horn parts, and the always-fabulous Holmes Brothers contribute sublimely soulful backing vocals. The end result is mesmerizing and way cool. The excellent ``Lover’s Knot″ is an overlooked gem from 1997.

_ By Eric Fidler, Associated Press Writer.

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``Pan-American Flash″ (Checkered Past) _ Paul Burch

Hearing ``Pan-American Flash″ for the first time, it would be easy to think you’d stumbled onto some lost country classic of long ago. Paul Burch’s brand of country is pure and true, unfettered by the conventions of a generation raised on rock, unadorned with much instrumentation. Driven by acoustic guitar and lap steel, the songs on ``Pan-American Flash″ are simple and graceful, and never sound forced. Hard to find, but worth a search for lovers of real country.

_ By Eric Fidler, Associated Press Writer.

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``The Woodys″ (Rounder) _ The Woodys

Michael and Dyann Woody have made the sort of sweetly glowing country album that belongs on the charts but, given country radio’s insistence on playing the same 26 songs by the same 17 artists, probably never will make it there. That’s a shame. ``Second Wind″ and ``The Rain Came Down″ are the kind of catchy tunes that stick in the mind. And while this husband-wife duo harmonizes in the style of the Everly Brothers, they also can romp through the honky-tonks, as they make clear on ``Mama and Them″ and ``I Don’t Mean Maybe.″

_ By Eric Fidler, Associated Press Writer.

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``The Book of Secrets″ (Quinlan Road/Warner) _ Loreena McKennitt

The line between ethereal and somnambulant can be mighty fine, and it’s tripped plenty of musicians, but Loreena McKennitt whirls along it with grace and style on ``The Book of Secrets.″ Exotic and alluring, mysterious and lovely, these songs are grounded in the Celtic tradition but mix world rhythms with an almost baroque structure into an enchanting mix.

_ By Eric Fidler, Associated Press Writer.

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``Tailspin Headwhack″ (Silvertone) _ The Chris Duarte Group

Go out, find this album and buy it. Now. It’s as simple as that. It’s all the review you need.

Rock fans will be happy, pop fans will be happy, Jimi Hendrix fans will be appreciative, blues fans will be ecstatic. This elite RCA label promises good exposure on this, the second release from the single best band out of Austin, Texas, in some time.

The few tracks of straight blues make Duarte’s album one of the most important blues offerings of the year. There is a funk retro version of B.B. King’s overdone ``Thrill Is Gone,″ and yes, yet another version proves worthwhile after all.

``Catch the Next Line″ and ``.32 Blues″ are the two coolest, richest blues tracks recorded in 1997, period. The instrumental ``Drivin’ South″ is the freshest Hendrix tribute in many years. Pop fans will love the hooks in ``Cleo.″ Duarte’s vocals and guitar play and songwriting sound so impossibly good, it is a thrill to know he is out there and on stride.

_ By Ralph Siegel, Associated Press Writer.

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