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Charlie Weiner 

Ghosts in the Windows (Two Dogs)

It was some 15 years ago that Charlie Weiner was releasing comedy albums with hokey titles such as 12 Inches of Weiner and Dancing at the Weinerland Ball. Weiner, who lives in Brunswick, decided to focus on doing stand-up comedy. Until now. Encouraged by local singer-songwriter Alex Bevan Weiner has returned to songwriting with Ghosts in the Windows. Already, the blue-jeans-and-boots-wearing singer-songwriter is getting airplay in rural areas such as North and South Dakota, where he's planning to tour.

Ghosts, which has artwork that features a picture of Weiner walking through an empty field in Medina, is equal parts Johnny Cash and Fred Eaglesmith. It's rustic, singer-songwriter stuff that only falters when Weiner tries to incorporate humor into his songs (the silly "Smiling Dog Blues") or makes too many references to religious redemption ("Child of God"). Accompanied by a long list of local musicians who play everything from mandolin and violin to bagpipes, Weiner has put together a capable cast of backing musicians who keep the album's mix of country rock and western swing consistent. In "Ordinary People," a song he dedicates to his father, Weiner identifies with the working-class men sent to fight in wars and fills the song with a vivid description of bone-cold winters. Ballads such as "Most of All," "All I Ask," and "Patiently" are beautifully played, and Weiner sings in a gentle voice -- but the sentiments are too soft. Tracks such as "Rodeo Rider" and "Don't Want to Die" come off better, because they're inflected with the pain of lost dreams that Weiner can capture so well.

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