- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 10, 2001

DEXTER FREEBISHA Life of Saturdays(Capitol Records)

Claiming Austin, Texas, as home and a now-defunct roller coaster for their name, the members of Dexter Freebish have not succumbed to boy-band sugary vocals and pop harmonies. Blending Seattle-grunge instrumentation with angst-rock lyrics, they have successfully entered the genre pioneered by Matchbox Twenty and Third Eye Blind.

The five-man band debuts with 11 tracks on "A Life of Saturdays." The album is reminiscent of the B side of the Beatles' "Abbey Road," as the songs merge flawlessly into one another. This holistic album approach gives us a few gems in the mix, including "Leaving Town," which won the John Lennon Song-Writing Contest this year and is getting airplay.

The title track is snappy with its driving guitar rhythms and fast lyrics. Lead singer Kyle (he has no last name listed in the album jacket) captures the modern escapist spirit as he rips through lines about traveling the world and imagining the "perfect place to be."

"My Madonna" (the religious icon, not the singer) describes the perfect girlfriend and the singer's incredulity that she is real and interested in him.

The angst-rock style wavers a little on "Deeper," "Higher" and "Falling Down." All these pieces are strong musically, but with lyrics such as "It feels like a paisley shade of pink," the desperation lacks believability and punch.

With their debut album, the members of Dexter Freebish have proved themselves as musicians. If their success continues, life may be full of Saturdays for the band after all.— Bethany WarnerSCOTT HARTLEYAncestral Crossing(First Light Music)

This breezy sample of wispy-sounding music on Irish and American Western themes is somewhat like George Winston with an orchestra. The sound is mostly piano with a few additions, namely saxophone, guitar, violin and cello. "Highland Vespers," which ends with a bagpipe melody, is especially pretty.

"Tribal Nocturne" has some very nice piano music, but I can't say it brings up a truly Indian sound. A flute would have been helpful on this score. A variation on "Shenandoah" is quite pleasant as well. Producers Scott Hartley and Michael Stern say the CD aims to stir the ancestral longings in everyone's soul toward a goal in life's journey.— Julia DuinCARMANHeart of a Champion(Sparrow Records)

After taking five years to write new songs and a book and create a major motion picture, contemporary Christian vocalist Carman Licciardello (who usually only goes by his first name) has come out with a double CD, "Heart of a Champion." The songs represent Carman's 25-year recording career.

Fortunately, the CD contains six new songs. One of them, the title song, "Heart of a Champion," has an upbeat Latino flare that inspires the listener to persevere through life's struggles. "I Promise," sung as a duet with Tammy Trent, offers an encouraging wedding message. "Just Like He Said" is upbeat, with a Latin pop sound to it.

Some of Carman's songs leave much to be desired in that they aren't really songs as such but Carman talking or reciting a story to background music. "A Witch's Invitation" and "Satan, Bite the Dust" are examples. Overall, though, the CD offers a compilation of songs that should appeal to people in all age groups.— Maia HitchnerO-TOWNSelf-titled (J Records)

Watching the creation of O-Town on ABC's "Making the Band" last season was true suffering, as the quintet rehearsed "All for Love" over and over again.

But O-Town (Ashley, Trevor, Erik, Jacob and Dan) proves it can compete with other boy bands for the teen dollar with its self-titled debut album. It features 10 tracks, including one that pleads for love from a dream girl ("Liquid Dreams") and another about wallflowers ("Shy Girl"). O-Town has the crooner style down pat, and that's the first requirement for any boy band, old or new.— Associated Press

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