Weekly Wire
Tucson Weekly Rhythm and Views

By Fred Mills

JULY 17, 2000: 

Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers Honky Tonk Union (Emma Java Recordings)

THE SLEEVE NOTES announce that "this record ain't country, like Lyle Lovett and Steve Earle ain't country." It does, however, have a wealth of signifyin' guitar twang, harp wail and high lonesome holler, enough to make it a credible bid in the No Depression sweepstakes.

Clyne, who's blessed with a sweetly pitched warble that seems to quiver from self-doubt one minute and Dutch courage the next, spins believable travelogues of road-side epiphanies and barroom light revelations. His ace band, which includes former members of the Gin Blossoms, Dead Hot Workshop and Clyne's previous outfit The Refreshments, has a deft touch, marrying old-school country-ish motifs to jangly power-pop raveups. And the combination works--"Tow Chain" and "Beautiful Disaster" are surging rock anthems to die for, while the shanty-like ballad "Green And Dumb" and the twangy shuffle "Tell Yer Momma" beam with an irresistible roots-rock vibe.

While not a perfect set--the title seems an unfortunate choice, and a few moments (the talking Leon Redbone-ish blues of "Jack Vs. Jose," the forced interstellar lyrical conceits of "My Heart Is A UFO") come off as hokey and gimmicky--this is an impressive debut that bodes extremely well for the future. And, as the admittedly charismatic Clyne has been anointed by Phoenix media as the hands-down best live performer in the Valley, it's a safe bet that he'll last longer than his erstwhile combo, which unceremoniously crashed and burned amid internal friction, major-label indifference and a general dimming of Tempe's once-vaunted Mill Avenue scene. Welcome back, sir.


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