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Chuck E. Weiss
OLD SOULS AND WOLF TICKETS
(RYKODISC)

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LAís Chuck E. Weiss, immortalized in song by both Rickie Lee Jones and Tom Waits, is a walking, croaking pharmacopúia of American roots music that he distills into his own hipster brew. This disc is a follow-up to his Ryko debut, 1999ís Extremely Cool, and thatís a small miracle when you consider how that CD ended an 18-year hiatus after his first LP, 1981ís The Other Side of Town.

Weissís embrace here is even wider than before, ranging from grizzled rock to spoken-word eccentricity to dirty roadhouse blues. Thereís a narrative poem about Al Jolsonís second wedding night that rides a greasy beam of rock guitar, and a 1970-recorded jaunt through the Amos Milburn barrelhouse anthem "Down the Road a Piece" with the late Willie Dixon slapping upright bass. And gris-gris dust coats the New Orleans blues "Congo Square at Midnight." Waits and Weiss share the same whisper-to-yowl vocal style and sense of twisted humor ó both of which are captured in the B-3-organ-stoked "G-d Damn Liars" (also the name of Weissís band) and the Lord Buckley slow burn of "Sneaky Jesus," which welds toy piano to a jazz-funeral drumbeat. Surely when Weiss wrote the tongue-in-cheek lament "No Hep Cats," with the tag line "ainít no hep cats anymore," he was joking, because he is, obviously, the shit.

BY TED DROZDOWSKI

Issue Date: March 7 - 14, 2002
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