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CD Review: John Wesley Harding 

Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead (Popover Corps)

Nineties singer-song- writer John Wesley Harding has been busy this decade as a novelist under his birth name, Wesley Stace. His 2005 book Misfortune earned him a pile of awards as well as a movie option, and 2007's By George was also warmly received. Harding has always composed catchy, clever tunes, but, perhaps strengthened by a regimen of so much writing, His current batch of songs ranks among his catchiest and cleverest. These songs possess a rich spiritual and relational depth that avoids becoming intellectually aloof, thanks to a sharp sense of humor and earnest earthiness. The album also profits from support by an arsenal of fine musicians, including the Minus 5. The recordings' lush yet cozy incorporation of orchestral instruments moves Harding's songs away from straightforward singer-songwriter guitar fare toward late-Zombies chamber-pop psychedelia. The band is unified by Harding's vision, and the subtleties of the performances expand the lyrics' expressive meaning in mature ways few artists attempt, let alone achieve. Stacked against his own body of work, Who Was Changed fares pretty well. Initial pressings include a bonus live disc. It captures Harding's rapport with his audience and includes several classics from out-of-print releases. 

Michael David Toth

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