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Jon Auer/Ken Stringfellow | Private Sides (Arena Rock/Ryko)
Jon Auer was wrapping up his first solo record when CwaS spoke to him for issue five, way back when. His current label, Pattern 25, are still hopeful (according to their website) that Songs From the Year of Our Demise will surface in 2003. In the meantime we've been treated to a couple of EPs ('Perfect Size' and the all-covers '6 1/2') and the odd compilation track. Here's another trio of his elegant pop/rock songs, paired with three from former partner-in-Posies, Ken Stringfellow. Opener When The Lights Go Up is a real beauty, albeit in need of a fade, a top-drawer ballad. Beautiful is classic upbeat Auer, sounding like a demo from later period Posies, in need of a remix and a little polish, whereas All U People signals a more experimental approach with some authentic trippy psych touches.
Stringfellow's first new material since his sublime 'Touched' album from 2001 amounts to two smouldering ballads and an earlier recording from 1997, Prequel, that curiously namechecks The Lovers' Hymn (from 'Touched'). The first, Ask Me No Questions, is a cover of a 1969 song from British folkie Bridget St. John. It's a typically touching rendition, with a more realised arrangement than the live version that appeared on the CD with CwaS#8. Stringfellow has proven a superb interpreter of others material and this is no exception. Don't Break The Silence would have sounded at home on 'Touched' - it's that good - and should be considered a contender for its follow up. Prequel has the raw energy of Stringfellow's uncomp-romising 'This Sounds Like Goodbye', a similarly lo-fi demo boasting an impassioned vocal performance the equal of any from his catalogue.
The Hall and Oates spoof cover art and EP status means that 'Private Sides' will merit little more than a footnote in the lengthy combined discography of Messrs Auer and Stringfellow, but those who seek out this small collection will be richly rewarded.

Matt Dornan
CWAS #13 - Autumn 2003

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