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Lament for Raymond Carver (self-released)

An ambitious project that attempts to augment the poetry of Raymond Carver with music, Lament for Raymond Carver, a collaboration between the local groups MOKO BOVO and CMC (Contemporary Music Collective), has been several years in the making. Pairing Carver's words with music, it features performances by spoken-word veteran Dan Bode (who provides the narration), keyboardist Leo Coach, percussionist Pete Dell, bassist Rick Kodramaz, guitarist Al Moses, and percussionist Alan Nemeth. The strength of this disc is the music -- the members of MOKO BOVO provide blues-oriented music that's perfectly suited for spoken-word, and the members of CMC, a group with ties to the Slovenian musical communities in Europe, deliver texture with their percussion. A Santana-like guitar riff runs through "The Hat," and a blues guitar drives "The Little Room," which takes its music from Charles Mingus.

But despite coming from an award-winning American writer, the words are the weakness on Lament. With its images of country graveyards and railroads, "A Walk" is an ode to a "quiet place" -- but the lyrics reek of nostalgia and sentimentality. The narratives that run through "A Hat" and "Where They Lived" are characterized by the same minimalist writing that makes Hemingway such a dull read. The one exception: Bode's raspy-throated delivery saves "Torture/Deschutes River/Waiting" and turns it into a Tom Waits-like rant (at least for the "Torture" part). Carver's short stories might have provided the material for Robert Altman's terrific 1993 film Short Cuts, but in this context, they lack the flow that characterizes lyrics suited to popular music.


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