- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 2, 2002


American Journey

(Sony Classical)

This 15-track disc contains the official theme for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, "Call of the Champions," which Mr. Williams will conduct during the opening ceremony in Salt Lake City with the Utah Symphony Orchestra and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performing.

Mr. Williams, who has been composing for the Olympic Games since 1984, used the Olympic motto "Citius, Altius, Fortius," which means "swifter, higher, stronger," for this song. When the choir sings these words, the listener will be able to feel their meaning.

The title track actually tracks two through seven is a six-movement suite that was written for the millennium celebrations in Washington. The composition traces America's development over the past century as noted in the title of each movement: "Immigration and Building," "The Century at War," "Popular Entertainment," "Arts and Sports," "Civil Rights and the Women's Movement" and "Flight and Technology."

Track 10, "The Mission Theme," is the theme for "NBC Nightly News." In "For New York," Mr. Williams' intertwines parts of Leonard Bernstein's "New York, New York" and the "West Side Story" song "America." Although this composition originally was created as a tribute to the late Mr. Bernstein on his 70th birthday, it takes on a new meaning since September 11. "Summon the Heroes," the finale, was written by Mr. Williams for the 1996 Atlanta Games.

This gifted composer takes the listener on a fine musical journey with this CD. Amy Baskerville



(Forefront Records)

Scorching guitars, screeching vocals and grinding electronic noises played repeatedly do not sound like much momentum. This loud, cliched and jaded album fails to measure up to the hype surrounding its release. Do not expect the haunting lyrics backed by inventive music typical of platinum-magnet DC Talk, the group with which TobyMac sings.

There is no trace of the sensitivity that crafted "Colored People" or "In the Light," both revered tracks from the DC Talk album "Jesus Freak." Most of the tracks sound like sanitized Limp Bizkit all rough guitars and distorted vocals. The lyrics lack depth, especially those on the title track. An example: "It's undeniable we're droppin' the Truth on this track, cause once you start an avalanche there ain't no turnin' back."

Much obnoxious screeching can be heard on this album. "Irene," which begins with beautiful Spanish guitars, morphs into a cacophonous "Hush little baby don't you cry." This song had the potential to prove TobyMac's talent as a solo artist, but fails miserably.

The most memorable track on "Momentum" the first solo album by a DC Talk member is "Somebody's Watching," with interesting vocal effects and a strong rhythm.

TobyMac deserves accolades for separating himself from DC Talk to explore his own talent. However, to be viewed as a serious solo artist, he must drop the shallow and coarse drivel in this album and stick to the style that made DC Talk famous. Mark Hellweg


Perfect City

(Miss Ruby Records)

Florence Dore may be a New York University professor whose specialty is William Faulkner, but her music does not closely resemble the Southern gothic tone of Mr. Faulkner's books. Instead, the debut album from the singer-songwriter retains shades of optimism as she jells her folk, country and punk influences into highly literate songs.

Her yearning, slightly twangy voice is reminiscent of Lucinda Williams and Aimee Mann, but her songs are stylistically worlds away from those two artists. Miss Dore's strength lies far more in her lyrics than her voice or guitar skills, and these story-songs are what make "Perfect City" worth seeking out.

On "No Nashville," she returns to her hometown singing "You can't drink/it's dry here/and there's 40 miles to town/sister's getting married/so I came on down." It's these simple, yet direct tales that propel the album above its share of bland songs, such as the honky-tonk of "Everything I Dreamed" and the modern country sound of "Framed."

Two slower ballads are the highlights here, including "Christmas," a song already made popular by the power-pop band the Posies. The other track to skip ahead to is "Wintertown (Ode to Kent, OH)," which begins with spare acoustic guitar and builds to a warm climax with organs, as Miss Dore accepts her one-time home, singing "Fate made me yours/Wintertown."

As a debut record, "Perfect City" shows promise, though Miss Dore may want to focus her style and spend more time on instrumentation next time around.

Derek Simmonsen


Your Trailer or Mine?

(Too Many Dogs Music)

If the band name and record title don't serve as a warning, then beware: The D.C. group Honky Tonk Confidential is a true honky-tonk band. With little of the slick production that marks contemporary country, or the folk-rock stylings that mark alt-country, the band instead relies on steel and acoustic guitars, stand-up bass and banjo to tell its tales of heartbreak, drinkin' and lovin'.

For the casual country fan, a little honky-tonk can go a long way, but the five-piece group manages to mix things up with Diana Quinn (acoustic guitar), Mike Woods (electric guitar and dobro) and Geff King (electric and standup bass) all alternating vocal duties. Bobby Martin adds his pedal steel guitar to the mix, and Dave Elliott fills in on drums, as more than a dozen guest stars round out the sound.

Miss Quinn sounds like a true 1950s-style country crooner on tracks such as "It Still Hurts," and "I Love the Bartender." Mr. Woods and Mr. King both have deep, George Jones-style voices on the twangy "Your Trailer or Mine?" and "Hi-Tech Redneck."

Humor is one of the band's best assets, especially on the bluesy "Rock Creek Crawl," a catchy number for those motorists who catch the song's knowing references. "Well the Rock Creek Crawl is what the driving cats all do/between the Cabin John and Georgia Avenue," Mr. King sings. "And if the DOT shuts down a lane or a big old semi stalls/you'll be out there for a long, long time."

Another inspired moment is the surf-guitar song "Sancho Panzer," based on the old German march "Panzerlied," which shows that Honky Tonk Confidential can branch out in other directions, too. Just don't let these diversions fool you Honky Tonk Confidential is firmly rooted in classic country, a boon to fans of the genre and a bane to those who wince every time a banjo starts playing. D.S.

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