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Testing the Waters in the Think Tank (03/26/99) Write to CD Shakedown

Mark ChesnuttMark Chesnutt, I Don't Want to Miss a Thing (Decca Records 1998) - Country star Mark Chesnutt carries on the tradition with I Don't Want to Miss a Thing. Featuring ten tracks, Chesnutt expands beyond traditional country for more adventurous fare.

Chesnutt has enjoyed big chart success, and holds three platinum albums (including his debut, Too Cold at Home), together with two gold records (including his Greatest Hits package). Yet Chesnutt was afraid that he would be pigeonholed in the "traditional country music" category. Thus, he consciously tried to expand his repertoire.

Big Hat not requiredThe new album begins with "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing," the Aerosmith ballad recorded for last summer's "Armageddon" sound track. While songs like "Tonight I'll Let My Memory Take Me Home" retain a "big hat" feel, songs like "That's the Way You Make an Ex," have a western swing flavor.

One of the highlights of the album is the tongue-in-cheek "My Way Back Home," about a good ol' boy who finds that his "home sweet mobile home" has been hauled off by his honey after one of his "hunting, fishing party weekends."

Adds Chesnutt, "I'm proud that people that I'm the 'keeper of the flame' and all that stuff. It makes me feel good. But, to be honest, that's not all I can do. I can branch out. Don't put me in Branson yet, because I can still rock and roll with the best of them."

After nine years of country success, Chesnutt shows that he still has the creative spark. Listen for I Don't Want to Miss a Thing.

Think TankHenry Rollins, Think Tank (Dreamworks 1998) - As the leader of the Rollins Band, Henry Rollins proved himself to be an intense rocker. With the spoken word, Think Tank, Rollins (age 38) shows himself to be just as intense without a band.

Let Henry explain. "CD 1 was recorded on my birthday in 1998. It was a fun night, and, as usual, the audience was high energy and brilliant all the way through. Disk 2 is from a series of shows I did in October 1997 in Australia. I tried to make the two disks different; the first having a faster rhythm, and the second having medium-tempo storytelling stuff."

Henry RollinsThe first CD moves too fast for me, with rapid-pace selections about "Airport Hell" (Rollins is one impatient dude) and "El Nino." But Disk 2 is rewarding, as Rollins tells how he knocked himself out at a concert in "Brazil" (he "kicked his own ass"), discusses the terrible food in "Russia," and explains how he harassed a throat doctor on "No One is Fax Exempt" (it's a good thing Rollins' doctor has a sense of humor).

On the second disk, Rollins shows himself to be an engaging and humorous storyteller (with a macho, red-meat-eating streak). You won't hear this stuff on radio, so look for Think Tank in stores.

Cowboy MouthCowboy Mouth, Mercyland (MCA Records 1998) - Cowboy Mouth is a veteran country rock combo hailing from Louisiana. With a potent mix of pop, hard rock, and ballads, the quartet displays their years of experience.

Cowboy Mouth consists of Fred LeBlanc on drums, Paul Sanchez on rhythm guitar, John Thomas Griffith on guitar and keyboards, and Rob Savoy on bass. All contribute to vocals; in fact, drummer LeBlanc can often be found during the band's live performances taking a microphone and stepping into the heart of the audience.

Cowboy MouthWith seven years' experience, and four prior CDs to their credit, Cowboy Mouth has refined its sound, with help from producer Mike Barbiero (who has worked with Blues Traveler, Gun 'n Roses, and Counting Crows).

The band (named after a 1971 play by Sam Shepard and Patti Smith) underscores its New Orleans roots; by turn, celebratory, spiritual, magical and passionate.

Some tracks are hard rockers ("Why Ya Wanna Do Me?"), some are reflective ballads ("Bad"), and some are straight-ahead rockers ("I Want to Believe"). My favorite cut is track 9, the soulful "Great Wide Open World."

Says Paul Sanchez, "I'm always looking for the light. Sometimes I squint so hard while looking, I miss it." But Cowboy Mouth doesn't miss the mark on Mercyland. Look for this varied disk.

Israel VibrationIsrael Vibration, Pay the Piper (RAS Records 1999) - Veteran rastamen Israel Vibration return with Pay the Piper, their ninth release for RAF Records. With ten new tracks, Israel Vibration carries on the best tradition of reggae with a social conscience.

Israel Vibration consists of singer Cecil Spence and Lacelle Bulgin, backed by the "Roots Radics" (Flabba Holt on bass, Carl Ayton on drums, Dwight Pinkney on lead guitar, Steve Golding on rhythm guitar, and Tee Birdd on keyboards). With songs like "Systematical Fraud" and "Hard Road," Skilly and Wise develop a full reggae sound, with solid melodies and catchy horn arrangements. Give Pay the Piper a chance.

- Randy Krbechek © 1999

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