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Railbenders
Segundo
(Big Bender Records)

For the most part, Colorado's country-music scene is divided between artists aligned with contemporary Nashville values and acts that pay homage to the twangier, more authentic sounds of yesteryear. The Railbenders (due Friday, March 12, at Herman's Hideaway) are part of the latter classification, but they're not much interested in either stylistic excavation or historical revisionism. They simply like the music, and on Segundo, they take it for a good, hard ride.

The finest moments here are the least jokey. "Another Tomorrow," a rousing workingman's lament, and the tear-drenched "Payphone" ring true, and rave-ups such as "Midnight Train" and "One Foot in the Grave" work, as well, thanks to the driving rhythms of bassist Tyson Murray and drummer Graham Haworth, supplemented by Jim Dalton on percolating gee-tar. As a singer, Dalton is merely serviceable, but he gets enough sincerity out of his abidingly ordinary pipes to stay on track.

"Sweet Caroline," penned by noted hayseed Neil Diamond, comes closest to flat-out parody, but even guest vocalist Eddie Spaghetti of the Supersuckers manages not to teeter over the edge. Likewise, the Dalton-Spaghetti duet on the Hank Williams Jr. curio "O.D.'d in Denver" is performed without too many winks. That's fortunate, because Segundo plays best when it plays straight. -- Michael Roberts

tissues4issues
Axis: Bold as Evil
(Self-released)

An experimental jazz quartet comprised of vocalist Kim Yoon Sun and pianist Geoff Cleveland (formerly of Funky Babylonians and Sons of Armageddon, respectively), Paul McDaniel from the Motet and Yo, Flaco! drummer Tohbias Juniel, tissues4issues coasts on the controlled vibrato and expressive abilities of its talented frontwoman. While Sun lends her warm, soothing coo to several songs of emotional and political struggle, she rarely digs below the lyrical surface, relying instead on airy flights of fancy and bop-oriented phrasing to communicate her apparent ennui. Rendering moot any well-intended sentiments about the evils of the world, Sun sounds more seductive than militant -- like Björk leading a progressive lounge act in a sweetly rendered act of civil disobedience.

Opener "News You Can Lose" laments the daily assault of depressing headlines and mind-numbing sound bites, driving home its point with a trite smattering of broadcast chatter (yawn). The tempo-mongering "Imbalance of Power" takes a more chaotic approach, knitting overly familiar fragments from "The Star Spangled Banner" and Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" into a theramin-fueled, avant-garde excursion. More adventurous yet is "Setting the Tone for the New World Odor," a caustic noise collage with enough found sound and loops of children chanting "United we stand" to make John Phillip Sousa toss his cookies.

Despite the album's overall sophistication and skilled musicianship, it grows monochromatic and tedious. On the plus side, the ethereal "Nuria," the meditative "Moment" and standout track "Selo (I Will Wait for You)" showcase Sun's alluring pipes -- which are nothing to cry about. -- John La Briola

 
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