John Wesley Harding | The Sound of His Own Voice

Yep Roc (2011)
By NICK A. ZAINO III  |  October 12, 2011
3.5 3.5 Stars


It's fitting that John Wesley Harding's new album is bookended by tributes to songwriting and music — "Sing Your Own Song" and "The World in Song." It's clear that Harding is having the time of his life writing and playing on this collection. His words are sharp, and the music is often bright and poppy, even if the stories aren't. Perhaps it has something to do with his long-running Cabinet of Wonders variety show. Harding sounds invigorated and in great humor. He's recorded with friends and compatriots here — the Decemberists and Peter Buck are the main backing band, with assists from producer Scott McCaughey, Rosanne Cash, Laura Veirs, and John Roderick — and the fun they had shines through. "Uncle Dad" sounds like the theme song to some dysfunctional sitcom about kids and divorce. "I Should Have Stopped" is a melancholic reminiscence of lost love but with plenty of humor and warmth. And it's hard to resist the obvious charms of Harding's take on gentrification, "There's a Starbucks (Where the Starbucks Used To Be)." It's also heartening to hear a songwriter embrace his intelligence and vocabulary like this: "They're as sharp as Occam's razor/as subtle as Aquinas/They define us and refine us with their beta-query-minus." What's better than tuneful, intelligent fun?
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