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[Off The Record]
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Nikki Sudden

There is a sweet spot where folk, country, and blues overlap ó a place filled with the sound of three-chord downer gospel, lonely cowboy laments, and songs that are at once jubilant and somehow broken down. The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Johnny Thunders, the Replacements, and Wilco have all journeyed there. And Nikki Suddenís been a permanent resident for 20 years, first as a member of the arty and influential Swell Maps, then with the Stonesy Jacobites, and now as a solo artist.

The Last Bandit is a generous anthology of his work beginning with the Jacobites. Sudden often accompanies himself on bass and electric guitar, with elegant organ, harmonica, violin, and saxophone flourishes punctuating the starkness. " Itís Gonna Be Alright " has a pared-down lushness: shimmering organ melodies brighten Keith Richards chordings, and thatís as full and fulfilling as The Last Bandit gets. Sudden seems to enjoy making songs fall on their faces. " Captain Kennedy " opens with a gritty pastoral guitar melody ó think Neil Young playing the Allman Brothersí " Melissa " ó before plunging down to bass-and-drums-only emptiness. Thereís an acoustic bonus disc, but after 19 tracks of Suddenís skeletal yet beautiful plugged-in despair, unplugging seems almost beside the point.


Issue Date: March 29 - April 4, 2001

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