Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Childish Things

On his seventh studio album, undynamic wordsmith suddenly finds his calling: anger

The leaden subtlety of this natural-born storyteller's baritone drawl has never given anybody boogie fever, not even on 2004's excellent de facto best-of, Live in Aught-Three. This album won't change that. But the Texan's songwriting has become so impassioned that it's enough in itself to move the crowd. That's why progressive Vermont pol Bernie Sanders chose "We Can't Make It Here" as a campaign song--its long, nuanced account of what happens to "the working poor" when jobs go overseas and enlistees go to war applies equally "in Dayton, Ohio, or Portland, Maine." Nearly everything else seethes with as much rage and bristles with comparable detail. You have to listen to the words, but the words do come with melodies. And the musical whole is spellbinding.

Blender, Apr. 2006