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More Dogs - Never Let Them Catch You Crying

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Artist: More Dogs

Album: Never Let Them Catch You Crying

Label: Monitor

Review date: Aug. 24, 2005

The rough-edged ethos of present-day Baltimore, like that of many cities in various degrees of economic distress, has produced a very idiosyncratic and energetic crowd of artists who seem to thrive on the atmosphere created by such a situation. The reactions are specific to each artist, and the manifestations of Baltimoreís influence are widespread, and processed in decidedly different ways by a diverse array of musicians. More Dogs, a trio of multi-instrumentalists who hail from Baltimoreís Little Italy, have certainly moved in a direction disparate from their Baltimorean brethren, carving a peculiar slice of Americana from their urban surroundings. Never Let Them Catch You Crying is the bandís second release, following a brief self-titled debut, and while itís not much longer than its predecessor, the album never seems too terse.

Never Let Them Catch You Crying was recorded live in the studio, an impressive feat given More Dogs tendency to rotate instruments often, usually mid-song. In the live setting, itís a nice visual companion to the groupís sometimes circus-like revelry. The trioís instrumentation is their most characteristic feature, though not solely due to their impressive ability to switch things up so seamlessly (thereís not a single remnant of all the movement and transition in the final recording). What sets them apart is the way More Dogs supplement the bass/drums/guitar triumvirate with organ and an array of percussion that usually takes precedence over the use of the conventional drum kit. Vibraphone and wood blocks tend to be the songsí rhythmic lynchpins, and triangles, whistles, and other implements make appearances as well. The sparser selections are often evocative of the old American West and the melodies of traditional songwriting, and while concrete references or connections arenít plentiful, More Dogs make music that can sound decidedly not of this time. But no matter how clever and peculiar they can sometimes be, More Dogs have the chops for more familiar songwriting as well, evidenced by the hushed beauty of the discís title track and the strident, driving rock of ďThis is One.Ē

Itíd be hyperbolic to say that More Dogs sound like nothing youíve heard, but itís more than safe to say that thereís not a glut of likeminded troupes crisscrossing the continent at any given moment. Never Let Them Catch You Crying likely wonít catch the world by storm, but only because it quite effortlessly repulses the attempts at lazy codification that facilitate such success, and is all the better for it.

By Adam Strohm

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