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Tony Scherr - Come Around

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Artist: Tony Scherr

Album: Come Around

Label: Smells Like

Review date: Sep. 9, 2002

Low-key singer-songwriter tunes

Come Around is a little bit tough for me, to be honest; it's definitely not what I was expecting. That's obviously not a bad thing, but I was surprised initially by the countrified feeling of songs like "Stuck it Out" and "In My Hands". Given the record label (Steve Shelley’s Smells Like) involved, and Scherr's involvement, as side-man, with folks like Bill Frisell and John Lurie, I was expecting a more avant approach here. Instead, Scherr's produced an indie rock album with a bit of a pop attitude. "Stuck it Out," for example, is pure singer-songwriter with a country tinge. Slightly overdriven guitar strumming provides a thick grounding for Scherr's vocals, strong and tuneful. Hammond organ courtesy of Chris Brown is a welcome addition (when would it not be?), while Scherr's brother Peter provides string bass solidity together with drummer Kenny Wollesen's low-key, no-nonsense support.

The key here is definitely one's tolerance for basic, fairly straightforward pop-rock tunes. If you're into it, the music here is solid and undoubtedly well-performed. The players are strong, and they know when to lay back, then to step forward. Scherr's slide guitar on "In My Hands" is marvelous, and his vocals are as pure as a countrified tune like it needs.

The dramatic bluesiness of "What Kind of Friend Are You" is beautifully accented with violin and cello, and as they provide the flowing backdrop for Scherr's vocals, his guitar is freed up to take the occasional stroll up into the higher registers. Most impressively, at eight minutes in length, the song doesn't drag. Nice work.

Likewise, the moodiness and minimalism of "Food For News" is surprisingly appealing. The drums rattle quietly in the background as Scherr's melancholy vocals blend with his sparse, distinct guitar notes. "Almost Believe in Everything" benefits well from the "Kashmir"-like keyboard sounds provided by Spiro Cardamis, as well as Scherr's slick guitar work.

I can't summon up as much interest in more predictable rockers like "Come Around" or the slow, lackluster "Are You My Friend", which concludes the album on a low-energy note. Overall, I was pleased to find some songs which really did strike a nerve, and I confess that they appear to be those which are more heavily-orchestrated or more dramatic. The simpler, singer-songwriter pieces don't really work for me, but I hope that my descriptions will allow you to make your own decisions.

By Mason Jones

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