Ben Kweller's sound is constantly evolving. It's shifted from garage-band yelps to piano-ballad coos, from electric feedback to acoustic resonance. This time, to quote Alan Jackson, "He's gone country, back to his roots." Permeated with down-home charm, Kweller's new album Changing Horses was recorded the old-fashioned way: self-produced, put to tape live, with a full band and with nary a computer in sight. It marks Kweller's first complete rock departure, diving Stetson-first into the country soundtrack of his Metroplex childhood in Greenville. Opener "Gypsy Rose" slides lazily in and out of time to the bluesy dobro of Kitt Kitterman, who also masterfully tinkers the pedal steel on inspirational big-tent-revival tune "Fight." Kweller penned the poignant, simple elegy "Ballad of Wendy Baker" when he was just 16, and it's undeniably the most heart-wrenching tale in his catalog; almost jarringly, the album then switches gears into "Sawdust Man," where the come-hither refrains of a big-rig trucker mix with Kweller's sprightly piano work. Kweller's music momentarily lost its sincerity on 2006's Ben Kweller, where he dabbled with pitch-altering software, but Changing Horses more than atones for that transgression.
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