Listen Up: Wednesday, March 02, 2005
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A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Acoustic Mafia

First Sunday ... Worst Monday
(self-released)

By Jimmy Fowler

Call it a promotional c.d. for a Fort Worth club or a testimony to the cream of Cowtown’s musical crop, but be happy either way: The Aardvark’s superlative un-group of folk-rock-country maestros known as the Acoustic Mafia have tardily released a collection of spare, supple tunes that suggest artistic incest can in fact create vibrant offspring. The Acoustic Mafia banner still hangs on the Aardvark’s shingle every first Sunday night of the month, but many of the original musical mafiosi — Tim Locke, John Price, Collin Herring, Brandin Lea — have dispersed to other projects or simply stepped into the shadows so that some new blood can pour in. That’s a good thing, since something as fragile as the Acoustic Mafia can really calcify unless the ensemble regularly revolves its key players. The 13 songs on First Sunday ... Worst Monday, in which the musicians mostly cover one another’s tunes, all attest to one thing: Every instrument tells its own story, even within the story that the singer and songwriter are trying to tell. The ominous creep of the organ that opens Calhoun’s “The Earth Has Lost Its Hold” leaves the listener standing in a field at midnight, scanning the sky and ground as vocalist Tim Locke laments a great but mysterious passing. The tiptoe of piano between the guitar strums on John Price’s lush “Slip Away” seems to want to distract the aching near-falsetto in Brandin Lea’s voice from its own sob. The metallic punch of the drums on Tim Locke’s “What Makes Your Black Heart Sing” keeps the pulse of sullen jealousy, here boyishly voiced by Casey Diiorio, urgent long after the breakup. For all its minimalist glories of string, key, and percussive inflections, First Sunday ... Worst Monday feels as if it should’ve been recorded live as a single set at the Aardvark instead of in a Dallas studio. On the best nights, something about the very echo in that beloved venue seems to throw inspiration back at rapt audiences. First Sunday ... Worst Monday preserves some remarkable specimens, but you’d really rather hear the flutter of their wings out of the jar.


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