Out Here

Growing pains
Buck Jones
Independent release

A band that has changed lineups more times than Johnny Oates' Texas Rangers--they have been, at various times, a four-piece with two female singers, a three-piece with a male and a female singer, and a four-piece with everyone singing--Buck Jones is one of those young groups for whom the word "potential" was created: There is no single perfect song on this long-delayed and much-stopped-and-started debut, no one track that reaches the finish line before it trips over its own awkward and unsure feet. But such are the pitfalls of bands that struggle each day to define their identities; like children crawling toward adulthood, Buck Jones must endure the occasional embarrassment of a breaking voice before it screams with any sort of clarity or authority.

Contained within each song is the seed of a better one struggling to break out: Tracks like "White Under Water" and "Frail" begin beautifully enough--soft, subtle, not too unlike the Jayhawks' brand of country-rock; they evoke a mood, provoke an emotion or two, come on like a whisper. But both songs suffer from the more-is-better high school of thought, and their fragile exteriors are quickly destroyed by sudden and inexplicable bursts of guitars and percussion that break the spell. It's like waking up from a perfect dream only to find everything is still the same as when you went to sleep.

Buck Jones--fronted by the husband-and-wife team of singer-bassist Gabrielle and singer-guitarist Burette Douglas--can't decide if it wants to rock ("School Zone," which smells way too much like teen spirit) or roll (the gorgeous, poignant "Reaching for Stars"), and so it splits the difference between moments memorable and frustrating. The result is a schizophrenic album that's halfway wonderful and halfway undiscovered, incoherent not because it should be but because it doesn't yet know any better.

The Devil and Cricket Taylor
Let Me Lead You to Sin
The Cricket Taylor Band
Independent release

Early on, Cricket Taylor garnered her young local rep as a straight blues singer with a gritty-down-and-dirty voice so much older than the fresh-faced girl from whom it came; some folks compared her to Edie (wrong), some to Janis, maybe now they'll use Kim Pendleton as a reference point. When Taylor's shouting the barroom blues atop her first-rate band, she's awfully good--raspy, deep, not trying so hard to be so "authentic." But when she and the band sell their souls and trade their clean-cut funk and blooze for distortion and metal without the heavy on "Devil Come Nippin'" (in which the Big Red One visits the singer in her sleep) and "Shock" (in which she's "seen the hellest of it all"), they're damn close to dangerous.

--Robert Wilonsky