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Seven Slow Sad Songs

Mark Kozelek
Rock N Roll Singer
(Badman Recording Company)

If you're a fan of the Red House Painters, the story of their still-unreleased album Old Ramon is almost something of legend. After recording the follow-up to Songs For A Blue Guitar, the Supreme label on which it was going to be released was pretty much dissolved following the mega-merger of Island and Seagrams and whoever the hell else (aren't there about 2 companies now that own everything anyway?). Originally scheduled for a late 1998 release, it has literally been sitting on the shelves somewhere for two years while fans wait to see whether it will ever be released from the heavy gears of the mega-label. Basically, it's a monstrosity of a crappy deal since the records isn't being released and Kozelek can't get the tapes back to release it himself.

Kozelek hasn't completely let this put a damper on his work, though. Not only did he spearhead the production of Take Me Home: A Tribute To John Denver, but he had a roll in Cameron Crowe's latest film Almost Famous and has now put together this 7 track release (the length of an EP, but unfortunately priced as a full length) of part covers and part originals. While it's mainly for the hardcore Kozelek fans, it also works as a pretty good introduction to his amazing ability to pull off stripped-down (only one song isn't acoustic) tracks that are captivating. The wackiest part of the whole equation is that three of the tracks on the album are covers of AC/DC songs and he manages to breath a completely new life into them, giving them feeling that I don't even think that the original writer could have realized they had.

As mentioned before, this album is really brief (7 songs and under 30 minutes), and if you have either the above mentioned Take Me Home: A Tribute To John Denver or Shanti Project release, you'll already have two of the releases on here. The disc starts out with "Find Me Ruben Olivares" (from the latter above release) and it's a solid track on which Kozelek shows off some nice guitar picking and his great vocals. The album-titled track (and only one with electric guitars) takes the AC/DC song and transforms the chorus from an arm-pumping testosterone fest to pure, wistful beauty.

From there, the album goes into the falsetto tinged "You Ain't Got A Hold On Me," the jangling "Metropol 47" (that includes the great line, "kiss your sweet koala face") and the other cover "Bad Boy Boogie" (in which he again slows things down and manages to pull genuine emotion out of something that was once arena rock. The closer of the disc is an absolute Kozelek classic. "Ruth Marie" is a quiet track sung about a friends Grandmother and shows that he may never run out of sad subjects to sing about. It's true that the disc is too short for the price and there really isn't that much 'new' music on it, but if you're a fan of the Red House Painters, it's the next best thing until Old Ramon gets released (if it gets released, fingers crossed).

Rating: 6.75