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South San Gabriel

When you realize that South San Gabriel's new album involves a song cycle about Will Johnson's cat, it's easy to get that sinking feeling that record executives must have had when Stevie Wonder delivered a concept album about talking to houseplants. Thankfully, Johnson, who also leads the gruff pack of...
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When you realize that South San Gabriel's new album involves a song cycle about Will Johnson's cat, it's easy to get that sinking feeling that record executives must have had when Stevie Wonder delivered a concept album about talking to houseplants. Thankfully, Johnson, who also leads the gruff pack of alt-country troubadours called Centromatic, writes such impressionistic lyrics that we're spared what might otherwise be a record enjoyable only to that one old lady who collects strays. Johnson barely loves structure, and Carlton could stand a chorus or two amid the spare snares, acoustic ramblings and sobbing steel pedal. Still, Johnson goes a long way toward salvaging this muddied record with his voice -- always grieving and aged, like he's got a wad of tobacco permanently lodged in his throat.
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