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John P. Strohm | Vestavia (Flat Earth)
'Do you like this song, 'cause if you do I'll sing it all day long for free,' sings indie-pop's perennial sideman, a generous proclamation given that the song in question is Wouldn't Want To Be Me, the stirring opener on Strohm's second 'solo' album. The song, albeit in a different version, turned up in the UK last year courtesy of the Easy! Tiger label, a tasty taster for Vestavia (named after a suburb of Strohm's hometown, Birmingham, Alabama), the similarly infectious Drive-Thru on the flip. The familiarity of those two gems makes getting to know Vestavia that much easier, like a couple of old friends guiding you through. Far less country-tinged than 97's Caledonia, Strohm's latest pushes the guitars to the fore and revives the outdated notion of classic, riff-based rock (For a While, Better Than Nothing) and soaring, power-ballad choruses (Sylvia's Gone) with nostalgic nods to US rock's past (the Byrds-via-Petty In Your Dreams). Lyrically, Strohm's a realist - 'I know that I'm alive but it don't feel like livin'... 'cause when you're 25 life's so unforgivin'' ?? with occasionally oddball source material ?? quite what inspired him to sit down and pen Eva Braun and Lobster Boy, only he can tell you ?? and a rare honesty that add up to a personable, personal record I'd willingly listen to all day long, free or otherwise.

Matt Dornan
CWAS #4 - Winter 1998/9 - The Lost Issue