When Whiskeytown broke up, Ryan Adams's eminently gifted guitar partner, Phil Wandscher, decided to take the low road. Now that Adams has become more of a pinup and media gadfly than a tunesmith, it's up to Wandscher's current group, Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter, to maintain the integrity and legitimacy that his old bandmate has pissed away. And maintain it they do; on the outfit's two full-length releases, Reckless Burningand Oh, My Girl, Sykes's songs are as brittle and forlorn as the husks of empty hearts, etched clean by a voice like dry wind in the dusty desert heat. Her hushed acoustic strumming is augmented by Wandscher's gritty leads, tremolo-bent knots of swooning, tuneful distortion that would make either Giant Sand or Crazy Horse proud. Backed up by players from such renowned acts as the Walkabouts, Neko Case and Joel R.L. Phelps, Sykes and Wandscher prove to be the consistent and empathically endowed songwriting association that Whiskeytown, as inspired as it was, only dreamed of.
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