Adding to subtract
Crow Pot Pie
This isn't to be confused with Slobberbone's same-titled, Sam McCall-produced debut of last year, but that won't be a problem because the "new" version bears only a slight resemblance to the "old" one. They're both still called Crow Pot Pie, seven of the original's 11 songs exist in some form or another on the second, and if the first record didn't still give off such a resounding echo, then the second version would forward their cause just fine. But you can't forge your own signature, and sometimes you've got to know when to say "when."
Where the first Crow Pot Pie is a low-budget masterpiece that sounded like a fortune--it was a complete piece from fireball start to cold-water end, telling its story of small-town desperation with a rare, weary power--its counterpart (Slobberbone's debut on this Austin label, ironically enough) wears its larger price tag like Minnie Pearl. The first record was an organic creation, a rock-and-roll band playing country with such reckless abandon you didn't know whether to two-step or jump in the pit. The second record just sounds produced, proof you can't fix what's broke on purpose.
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That's not to deny the obvious: Brent Best in any form is still a damned fine songwriter and singer, a young poet in a wounded storyteller's body, and when he wraps his voice around a lyric like, "This Indian summer has made me sick/Don't use the phone/I don't write no letters/All I can do is lay here and sweat," you can feel the shirt sticking to your own back. He's Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy in the body of one man, his rasping voice perfect for country's pop side, but his songwriting sensibilities leaning toward a darker place. Like Farrar, he can take you to a spot you've tried not to visit; like Tweedy, he can make the trip seem necessary.
The band still gives off plenty of fire, and the addition of fiddle further fleshes out the country and rock distinctions even on those occasions when one gets in the way of the other (the fiddle sounds merely laid over "Whiskey Glass Eye," a rock song no matter how you cut it). The new record even possesses its own nice additions--the mini-epic "I Can Tell Your Love is Waning" (originally off the Denton collection Welcome to Hell's Lobby) and the distorted Southern rocker "Tilt-A-Whirl."
But I still can't get fully get behind a Crow Pot Pie that leaves off "Boy Howdy" (the kick-in-the-gut instrumental that led off the first version) and deletes the wrenching "I'll Be Damned." It recalls the time CBS Records released the Clash's debut in the U.S. minus four essential U.K. tracks: In the end, the deletions were the difference between a remarkable record and an unforgettable one, and sometimes you've got to trust your gut.