Stephen Bruton occupies some of the most accessible and interesting terrain in roots land. The Austin-based guitarist was a long-time sideman for Kris Kristofferson and Bonnie Raitt, and heís recorded with plainspoken Texas troubadours T-Bone Burnett and Alejandro Escovedo. His own songwriting is sardonic and sometimes spiritual, à la John Prine or Dylan, and on Spirit World itís outfitted with plenty of pop hooks and studio gloss.
The disc has a few raucous roots rockers and even a frantic guitar passage here and there. What distinguishes Bruton, however, is his songwriting. "Acre of Snakes" is a dart aimed at a freaky fan ("Is it crowded in here, or is it just you?"); "Just a Dream" is the sad and well-told story of long-time Austin drummer John "Mambo" Treanor, who died last year. With deadpan delivery, Bruton offers memorable and even thought-provoking nuggets on every track, including "Teach Me How To Stay," which features a very Raitt-like adult-oriented rock arrangement.