CD review for Feb. 20, 2009

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Ben Kweller

"Changing Horses"

Ben Kweller's frail, boyish voice makes sense on his first two solo records, "Sha Sha" and "On My Way." Those CDs were collections of slightly deranged but musically lighthearted pop songs that fit well with Kweller's background - now 27, Kweller started playing in pop rock bands more than 15 years ago.

"Changing Horses" is a nod to Kweller's Texas roots, pairing the same kind of burnt-love lyrics that gave "Sha Sha" its quirky charm with steel guitar and the occasional honky tonk. It sounds ridiculous.

"Wantin' Her Again" is the biggest victim here, using an easygoing guitar line as a background for Kweller's lament about "that girl she has runnin' back and forth again." He yelps just a little bit as he tries to channel - I don't know, Hank Williams? It's hard to tell what the goal is here.

But even as "Wantin' Her" falls flat on its face, Kweller manages to fill "Changing Horses" with enough charm - mostly on the poppier tracks, and especially on the mid-album cut "Sawdust Man" - to give it the same ease his earlier efforts had.

Rating: 2 stars out of 5

- Margaret Hair, 4 Points

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