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The Awakening of Everyman Jones
Artist:  Dirt Poor Authority
Label: Hero Recording Company
Time: 12 tracks / 71:34 minutes

Samples
Lament
Three More Hours

Although it's not likely that Asheville, North Carolina, will become the next hotbed of much imitated musical talent, the town can happily lay claim to this quirky, honest outfit and their passionate take on Americana music. Any band that claims to be the "Official Poor White Trash Band" can't be all that bad. That is precisely the case with Dirt Poor Authority (DPA). Of course, both their impressive title and their actual name suggest a band that is a bizarre cross between backwoods hillbilly music and festering garage punk. This five piece band, however, prefers to sprinkle a bit of funk over a straight-forward slice of groovy, southern-laced, nineties rock. Like a backwoods James Bond cocktail, shaken not stirred, mix sophisticated amounts of BNL, Counting Crows, Ben Harper, Jimi Hendrix, David Matthews, Model Engine, Soul Coughing, and Vallejo. Serve chilled. This little concoction not only goes down smoothly, it's meaty enough to make an entire meal.

The Awakening of Everyman Jones opens like an alarm clock with the alternative buzz of "Hunger," which serves as an urgent prayer for patience,  compassion, and empathy. Other highlights include the Counting Crows-esque song "Same Silly Circles," and "Lesson Learned," --a masterpiece of CSNY meets Kansas magnitude that finds hope in past missteps.

Showing more of their silly side, "Too Fat to Be Attractive" breaks the album's more serious mood to poke fun at our culture's obsession with thinness through a jaunty lament about the lead singer's own largeness. The lyrics of this rare live track recorded in the "Blues Room" in Hickory, NC, are completely inspired, hysterical bits that even vapid, thin folk can appreciate. Contrasting with this levity, many of the other songs, like the ballad "Satellite Eyes," show a real depth and sensitivity lyrically:

   She walked barefoot into my dreams on a splendid night
    Where the moon was a fluorescent balloon held high.
    My eyes met hers and they were the blue that only God could create,
    it was as if upon Eden's demise, God places its oceans in her eyes.
    With my focus fixed, I reached out to touch this mirage of beauty
    my hand went through her soft, silk garments and into her soul.
    She penetrated my steel, heard my dreams as she stroked my hair,
    the serenity was thicker than air.
Despite some powerfully rendered moments, regrettably the album gets too loose as it meanders toward the ending, losing a lot of its initial momentum. Many of these songs are in need of a producer's trimming touch, and all of them could afford to be better mixed for sound clarity to overcome the muddiness. The overall strength in musicianship, track diversity, and songwriting throughout the album, however, excuses some of the more indulgence of the extra tracks. Although principal songwriter, rhythm guitar player, and lead singer, J. Corbin, is clearly talented, his voice falters occasionally, betraying some immaturity. He also sounds like a cross between Ozzy Osbourne and Adam Duritz of the Counting Crows, and the comparison to Duritz in particular grows a bit too obvious at times. Yet, for the most part, DPA manages to sound like all of their inspirations at one time or another without sounding too precisely like any of them at any given moment. No small feat. Contrary to the rumors, at last report Dirt Poor Authority was not breaking up before they really got started, and a new album is planned for 2000. Keep your eyes on these guys.  Their abundant talent is a far, far richer field than their wasteland name suggests.

Steven Stuart Baldwin   1/15/2000

 

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