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Light Your Fuse (04/02/99) Write to CD Shakedown

Wide PrairieLinda McCartney, Wide Prairie (Capitol 1998) - Wide Prairie is the posthumous release from Linda McCartney, who died last summer from breast cancer. The album boasts 16 songs recorded from 1972 through 1998, featuring Linda's strong sense of self.

Let's be straight up: if you like Band on the Run or Venus and Mars, then you'll like Wide Prairie. In contrast, if you were one of the Wings detractors, then this set may not appeal to you.

The album starts on odd footing, with the whimsical title track. Yet songs like "The Light Comes From Within" (the last song ever recorded by Linda) and "Endless Days" are fine tracks, guided by Paul's steady hand.

Linda McCartneyExplains Paul, "Linda hated compromise. If she wanted to say it, she'd say it and didn't figure anyone had the right to tell her not to. 'The Light Comes from Within' was the last song she sang, so she literally had the last word on this one."

An interview with Paul McCartney regarding Wide Prairie (conducted by Chryssie Hynde) can be found online.

Linda's humorous side comes through on songs like "Cook of the House" (Linda was an outspoken vegetarian), while tracks like "The White Coated Man" reflect her campaign against animal abuse. Also included are a couple of cover songs from Linda's childhood, including "Mr. Sandman" and "Poison Ivy." In addition, the album artwork features a gallery of photos of Linda, who will also be remembered for her photography.

Click here for more photos of Linda from the press kit

Linda McCartney was a lightening rod for criticism, which wasn't fairly directed at her. She will be remembered as a kindly soul, as shown on Wide Prairie.

Got a chip on your shoulder?Joe Henry, Fuse (Mammoth 1999) - Roots rocker Joe Henry returns with his fifth album in Fuse. With production help from Daniel Lanois and T-Bone Burnett, Fuse ranges from the experimental to the moody to smooth instrumental tracks.

Now age 37, Joe Henry hails from the Midwest. Earlier albums, including Short Man's Room (1992) and Kindness of the World (1993) were made with members of The Jayhawks. His last album, Trampoline (1996), received widespread notice for its daring arrangements and mood rock instrumentation (though Henry claims in the interactive CD interview that he does not like Trampoline).

Joe HenryHenry continues on the same path with Fuse. Guest performers on the album include Jakob Dylan, who provides backing vocals on the album's first single "Skin & Teeth." Other guest performers include Rami Jaffee from the Wallflowers on keyboards and vibes, Greg Richling (also Wallflowers) on bass, Dave Palmer (who has recorded with MC 900 Ft. Jesus and Chris Isaak) on keyboards, and Chris Whitley on guitar.

Several tracks are standouts, including "Skin & Teeth" and "Like She Was a Hammer," both driven by the slinky bass guitar of Daniel Lanois. Also featured is the introspective musings of "Want Too Much." The album concludes with subdued reading of "We'll Meet Again."

The album also includes an interactive section, which includes live versions of two songs ("Like She Was a Hammer" and "Great Lake") recorded at Sessions at 54th Street, together with an offbeat "interview," in which Henry is portrayed by actor Billy Bob Thornton. During the "interview" (is it tongue-in-check or is it serious?), Henry describes his music as "syncopated" (which he calls an "industry term for music that is outside the mainstream") and says that one of his main influences was Jonathan Winters.

Fuse is hard to pin down: the album has a late night, boozy jazz feel, yet builds from rock instrumentation and includes the challenging arrangements heralded by Tchad Blake and Mitch Froom. Fans of adventurous rock will flock to Fuse.

David WilcoxDavid Wilcox, Underneath (Vanguard Records 1999) - North Carolina resident David Wilcox - known for his James Taylor-like vocal stylings and acoustic guitar work - returns with his seventh album. While Wilcox opens with slower-paced songs like "Underneath" and "Never Enough" he moves more deftly through numbers like "Home Town" and "Guilty Either Way," which develop a more energetic folk sound.

Wilcox grew up near Cleveland, and began his recording career in 1987 with the Nightshift Watchman. Wilcox originally thought he needed to record songs with a "Message," but now focuses on creating a mood.

According to Wilcox, "The songs on this record actually move from one place to another. At first you have songs like 'Never Enough' written from that consumerist point of view, 'Down Here,' which is about feeling displaced, but by the end of the record there is a feeling of belonging to something much bigger than the little fashions that separate us. Rather than briefly touching a lot of people, I want to deeply touch a few people."

David WilcoxProduced by Steve Buckingham, Underneath was recorded in four weeks at the Dog House in Nashville. Backing musicians include Victor Wooten on bass, Sonny Landreth on slide guitar, and Stuart Smith on electric guitar. Alison Krauss provides backing vocals on "Underneath" and place viola on "Young Man Dies," while Jennifer Kimball provides backing on three tracks.

The real treat comes at the end of the album, with the lovely, piano-based "Home Within Your Heart," followed by the surprising, "Sex and Music," with its tongue-in-cheek spoken work section.

When Wilcox lightens up a little, he's a delight. Give Underneath a listen.

- Randy Krbechek © 1999

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