Singles Going Steady

This week's contestants still believe that rock 'n' roll lives forever, but it might not always pay its own way. (Friggin' freeloader.) Whether for amusement or pocket change, avocation or insurance, more than 20 years into their respective music careers, Rickie Lee Jones now owns a horse farm, Silos frontman Walter Salas-Humara paints pictures of dogs (, and Tommy Womack wrangles the animals of academia as a temp in Vanderbilt University's poli-sci department. And that's about all they have in common.

Rickie Lee Jones, "Falling Up" from The Sermon on Exhibition Boulevard

RLJ's latest long player comes billed as "Velvet Underground-inspired music with lyrics that are inspired by the real words and ideas of Jesus Christ." (Forget the repetitive inspiration for a minute and realize that this is not the first time VU and JC have met in a sentence, however poorly written.) And though the music is, in fact, direly droning, discordant and filled with so much plodding Mo Tucker percussion that Rickie oughta name her band the Floor Tom Tom Club (or record her own Richard Buckner album), Jones' sultry surrender has no shot at the cool coldness of Nico, let alone that of Lou Reed. So what's so compelling it doesn't belong here? "Falling Up," a kind of Flying Cowboys-era jazz tangle of rangy vocal rounds dilatorily delivered, building beauty through tension, the apparent aim of this curiously ambitious experiment finally realized.

The Silos, "Tell Me You Love Me" from Come on Like the Fast Lane

Since his Silos copped Rolling Stone's Best New Band designation for a little gem called Cuba a mere two decades ago, Salas-Humara, despite near-lifelong toeholds in New York and Miami, has provided more windows-down highway harmonies for the heartland than anyone. But his pithy, ready-for-repeat platitudes aren't always found in the chorus. "Tell Me You Love Me," for example, offers "Love is nothing to save" and follows immediately with "You never know," another instance of calloused veteran wisdom that sounds damn near optimistic in fifth gear while straddling the yellow line.

Tommy Womack, "I'm Never Gonna Be a Rock Star/ I Want a Cigarette" from There, I Said It!

The voice of William Faulkner's ghost bellows, "Write what you know," and Womack, author of the woefully neglected memoir Cheese Chronicles: The True Story of a Rock 'n' Roll Band You've Never Heard Of, complies with the most self-conscious, self-deprecating, spent-too-much-time-in-Nashville disc of self-revelation you'll ever hear. Fittingly, "I'm Never Gonna Be a Rock Star" segues to a therapist's office smoke break with a cry of "Where's my catharsis?" Think Spalding Gray if he'd grown up in Kentucky with a guitar and a vinyl copy of Black and Blue.

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Rob Trucks