Marshall Crenshaw

In the midst of the punk and new wave explosion about 25 years ago, Marshall Crenshaw was the great pop hope. Though he never quite attained household-name status, he now rests comfortably in the chair of the elder statesman -- author of a tome on rock movies and occasional actor in those same flicks (he played Buddy Holly in La Bamba), and singing lead with the remaining members of the MC5. But Crenshaw's rep rests on his crisp, smart songs, all filled with hooks that have bait attached.

Though he's now performing in neo-folk mode as a soloist with guitar, Crenshaw's energy and the delicious melodic richness of his songs somehow conjure a full band. Even stripped down to their bare essentials, his compositions amply demonstrate how he cracked the DNA of the likes of Holly and Lennon/McCartney, capturing the wistful romanticism of the teenage heart and weaving in an adult intelligence and wisdom. He also usually dips into his influences for a choice cover that reflects just how well his own songs fit in as modern classics.

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Rob Patterson