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Various Artists | Guess Who This Is: Tribute to Dom Leone (Two-Ton Santa)
Dom Leone, frontman and songwriter for New Hampshire indie outfit Ed's Redeeming Qualities, died of a rare form of cancer in November 1989. This tribute album differs from most in that presumably it will sell to an audience largely unaware of the original versions of the songs here performed by an impressive cross-section of American indie stalwarts and appropriately little-known outfits. Spoken word interludes by its subject and the humorous content of much of the material here suggests ERM occupied similar territory to Canada's Barenaked Ladies, not the insult some may perceive that to be. The Buckets put a country twist on Guess Who This Is, a light-hearted and likeable opener before an uncharacteristically boisterous Granfaloon Bus tackle Bad Memories, a song that has featured in their live set, and the usually poker-faced Ida loosen up a little for an affecting take on Coriander Eyes ("I wonder if her eyes will water / When she chops the onions I bought her" set to a country lament). San Francisco 'jug rock' band 86 provide an early highlight, their take on The Letter reminiscent of another of the album's contributors, Curtis Harvey (ex of Rex) who adds pathos to the whimsically sombre More Bad Times. Bigger names Mark Kozelek and Calexico take contrasting approaches, the former slipping into familiarly earnest cover mode, backed up by his acoustic guitar on My Friend Bob, whilst Burns and Convertino enlist Craig Schumacher on 'backwards guitar and space phones' to their swirling, beatbox driven Drivin' On 9, one of their more adventurous experiments. Also particularly noteworthy are TW Walsh's breezy reading of Sit Them Old Ladies Down, sounding like a countrified Pedro The Lion; Wig Wag (the nom de plume of Jon Ekstrom) a home-recorded gem of double-tracked vocals and shimmering guitars (a full-length is promised soon on Two-Ton Santa); Birddog's pretty, minimalist Lighthouse; and the distinctive twin-vocals of SF pranksters Warm Wires on closer Christmas In Vermont. Thoughtfully compiled and drawing some inspired performances, 'Guess Who This Is' is that rarest of compilations, one that doesn't have you reaching for the remote.

Matt Dornan
CWAS #11 - Autumn 2002

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