- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 16, 2002

CHRISTY McWILSON
Bed of Roses
(Hightone Records)
Christy McWilson's second CD contains plenty of kick and lots of achy vocals, with a sound that's a little retro rock 'n' roll with a new country edge.
Producer Dave Alvin, who also contributes some guitar and drop-dead-in-your-boots bass vocals on a cover of Moby Grape's "805," gets credit for coaxing inspired performances from Miss McWilson; her husband, bassist Scott McCaughey; and R.E.M.'s Peter Buck, among other musicians on this recording.
Miss McWilson's songs have a touch of early-1970s California in them think post-Mamas and the Papas cum Jackson Browne. The first two tracks, "Life's Little Enormities" and "Lila Jean," demonstrate these influences. But these flavors also surface later in the disc in unexpected places, such as in the cover of Jesse Colin Young's "Darkness, Darkness."
Those hungry for a fresh sound need look no further. Jay Votel

INDIGO GIRLS
Become You
(Epic)
If you haven't bought an Indigo Girls release since, say, 1994's "Swamp Ophelia" because you believed the acoustic duo was losing its edge or getting too mainstream, then "Become You" will win you back.
It's a chance to hear Georgia natives Emily Saliers and Amy Ray do what they do best concoct mature, witty, intelligent songs and match their voices in exquisite harmonies.
The Girls' eighth studio release is roots rock at its best. Penny whistle, accordion and mandolin dominate this back-to-basics album.
Miss Ray's title track is a standout. It manages to sound like both bluegrass and American Indian music, creating a unusual and intriguing combination.
"Bitterroot," which features backing vocals and outstanding harmonica by Michelle Malone, is an out-and-out toe-tapper. Listeners will have a tough time sitting still while listening to lyrics such as "Tonight I'll be sleeping on the mountaintop, I got a billion stars for my witness; In the morning I'll go down and the sun comes up, I'll take a drink from the Bitterroot River."
Fans of Indigo Girls, drink up. Associated Press

STAR ROOM BOYS
This World Just Won't Leave You Alone
(Slewfoot Records)
A little heartache goes a long, long way. Songwriter Dave Marr's lonely sound saturates his group's sophomore effort, and the disc suffers for it. The Athens, Ga.-based band attempts an edgy vocal style reminiscent of Michael Stipe but falls a bit flat even flatter than R.E.M.'s trademark singing. Is there something in the Athens water supply?
The disc takes a long time and a lot of anguished listening before paying off with "The Daydreamer," which is a more upbeat truck-driving song. "The 4:05" is also a winner, but the songs that follow it, including the title track, are forgettable.
Coursing through all this heartache is the unfailing pedal steel playing of Johnny Neff, which, good as it is, can't cheer up the Star Room Boys. J.V.

ALANIS MORISSETTE
Under Rug Swept
(Maverick)
"I still don't know who I am," declares Alanis Morissette on "Precious Illusions," a cut on her new "Under Rug Swept." Well, if someone as self-absorbed as Miss Morissette can't figure herself out, what hope is there for those of us who don't analyze ourselves to death?
Miss Morissette's musings are getting tiresome, and "Under Rug Swept" finds her remarkably unchanged from her breakthrough 1995 release "Jagged Little Pill" and even less evolved than her 1998 follow-up, "Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie."
So here she is, a more unsympathetic character, wallowing in the nasty muck of broken relationships. She weakly recalls the trauma of separation on "That Particular Time" and bitterly wonders why she loves someone who doesn't welcome the attention on "Narcissus." At least the lush "Flinch" has a musical impact to contrast with her numb ramblings on a relationship that ended 10 years ago.
Shake it off, girl.
Miss Morissette can do better, and sometimes she does: She mopes through familiar territory on "So Unsexy" and "Surrendering" before she unexpectedly arrives at hopeful conclusions. There's an uncanny sweetness to "Utopia," and she's utterly giddy on first single "Hands Clean," singing against a fuzzy arrangement, "I might want to marry you one day, if you'd watch that weight and keep your firm body."
That's the Alanis we need to hear not the one who's overly self-congratulatory about her own largess on "You Owe Me Nothing in Return" and who sounds incomprehensibly strident as she goes through her personal-ad checklist on "21 Things I Want in a Lover."
Miss Morissette chose to write and produce "Under Rug Swept" on her own, breaking from her "Jagged" and "Supposed" collaborator Glen Ballard, a bad move. Not only does she fail to produce any tracks that lodge in the memory the way past hits have, she recycles too many old tricks. Scripps Howard News Service

POWER MOVEMENT PROJECT
Self
(Funkstarr Records)
The debut album from Baltimore's Power Movement Project blends funk, hip-hop and soul into a melting pot stew that skillfully reflects each of those styles, yet does not seem to reflect the group's talent. The mix of music is both the band's major strength and its weakness because these jumps in form tend to make for an uneven debut.
The band does show promise, though. From the opening sinister strings, funky bass line and reggae beat, it's obvious the Power Movement Project has a sense of what works. Highlights include "Adult Swim," a relaxed piece of hip-hop funk; "The Source," which leans more into reggae territory and includes a nice, repetitive piano line; and the shuffle-beat of "Keep On Movin'."
The secret weapon here is Monique Vieras, whose soulful vocals act as a counterpoint to rapper Blacksmith's rapid vocal delivery. Drawing her out more would have considerably strengthened a number of tracks. Instead, the group begins to suffer from repetition midway through the disc as it apes the sounds of Outkast, Limp Bizkit and even Eminem.
While a welcome addition to Baltimore's rather eclectic music scene, Power Movement Project does not live up to its potential on "Self." Derek Simmonsen


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