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Ethan Daniel Davidson
Alaska 11 North
Times Beach Records

Though currently based in San Francisco, modern folk singer/songwriter Ethan Daniel Davidson leads a fairly nomadic life. He's been a lumberjack in Alaska and run a craps table in an illegal casino. He's repeatedly snuck across both the U.S./Mexican and U.S./Canadian borders and sailed down the Yukon River on a junker boat made mostly of plywood. Life experiences generally make for good songwriting, and the semitransient Davidson draws his proselike verse from his unusual experiences and the eccentric characters he's met along the way. Political and full of social commentary, Davidson's narrative lyrics evoke a sense of freedom in the style of the important statement ballads of the '60s. Like fellow modern folkie Dan Bern, Davidson seems to do his best to emulate Bob Dylan's voice, but often enough his own deep, resonating tone manages to shine through. Influenced by legends like Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Dylan and even working-man's hero Bruce Springsteen, Davidson contributes harmonica, upright bass, bass guitar and mandolin to the album, along with vocals and guitar, which lend authenticity to the earthy effort. He also covers material by Loudon Wainwright III ("The Man Who Couldn't Cry") and the Velvet Underground ("Oh! Sweet Nuthin' "). (Sarah Quelland)

Lee Press-On and the Nails
Swing Is Dead
Irascible Records
Divided into three acts, this 14-track album opens with an ominous thunderstorm full of forbidding organ music that creeps into "Waltz of the Damned" with freakish carnival music that descends into cackling madness. LPN describes its music as jump swing from hell, and the band whips up monstrous psycho swing charged with demonic energy. Deviating from typical swing with Dixieland nuances ("Mississippi Darling") and outlandish rock & roll influences (unleashed with a screeching guitar solo on the dramatic thriller "Maelstrom"), LPN is the embodiment of swing's dark side. It smoothly splices its original material ("That Only Happens in the Movies," "I Prefer a Coffin") with older obscure cuts, like Stan Jones' dusty cowpoke ditty "Ghost Riders in the Sky," Raymond Scott's instrumental "Devil Drums," Sam Coslow's "Boogie Man" and Elvis Costello's "Wave a White Flag." Though the band's image is spooky in a campy Munsters/Addams Family way, LPN takes its lively music seriously and leads its listeners on a wild ride. The album also contains a bonus cover of the Rolling Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash." (A CD-release party will be held at Club Cocomo in San Francisco Sunday, Feb. 13, at 8pm.) (SQ)

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From the February 10-16, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. MetroActive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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