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Bryan Sutton
Ready to Go
Sugar Hill

Hot stuff! Acoustic-guitar wizard Bryan Sutton, accompanied by leading names in bluegrass, shows off a range of techniques and styles, especially country, old-timey and hot jazz. "Blue Night" is a tasty chip off Bill Monroe written by Kirk McGee. Sutton plays Dobro on a cover of U2's "When Love Comes to Town" that smokes the original for urgency and plain-spokenness. Saving the punch for last: "Memories of Smoky Mountain" is reason enough to pick this album up. The tune is sung by its composer, Dolly Parton, accompanied only by Sutton's acoustic guitar. The song shows the sweet-voiced lady at a near-shouting unadornedness--here she's breaking out of that Broadway-style theatricality that's her downfall as a singer. "Memories of Smoky Mountain" is one of those moments that's wormwood and honey mixed. (Richard von Busack)

Saint James
Pipe Dreams
Big City Records

The Iron Maiden/Judas Priest-styled cover art is disturbingly deceptive. On closer inspection, the cover reveals a psychedelic image of a man that's a little more on target. Saint James is led by James Gurley, guitarist for Big Brother & the Holding Company and one of the fathers of psychedelic guitar. The self-taught guitarist has a distinctive finger-picking style, but musically he seems undisciplined; he dips into various genres, creating a weird fusion of rock, blues, country, folk, psychedelia and jazz. The opening track, "It's a Beautiful World," exudes a sultry darkness. Then there's the eerie prairie howler "Cowboy Song" and the reggae number "The Fire of Love." Thematically, Gurley's songs range from "Message From John (The Beatles Are in Paris)," which describes a dream about John Lennon, to "Grrls in Big Shoes," on which he yodels and sings, "I get the blues from girls in big shoes/With the Doc Martens on, man it looks like bad news/They got a size 12 on a size-7 foot/And skinny little Olive Oyl legs/Is that any way to look?" Despite its lack of cohesion, the eclectic album still comes across as interesting in its diversity. (Sarah Quelland)

Various Artists
Isn't She Still ...
Slog Records

Isn't She Still ... puts an interesting spin on the concept of a tribute album by re-creating the classic Pretty in Pink soundtrack, allowing modern indie artists to interpret the original arrangements by the original artists. The end result is unexpectedly appealing, even more mellow than the original soundtrack, which featured bands like INXS, New Order, Echo and the Bunnymen and the Smiths. Tom Racer delivers a rocking indie-pop cover of "If You Leave"; Danny Dean and the Homewreckers serve up a honky-tonked version of "Pretty in Pink"; the Relatives take a bratty approach on Belouis Some's "Round, Round"; and Underdrive uses a decidedly melancholy, synthed-up approach on INXS' "Do Wot You Do." Other contributors include American Girlfriend, the Arrogants, National and the Autumns. (SQ)

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From the March 9-15, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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