By: Bill Clifford
The Alternate Routes fell into critical acclaim upon the release of their Vanguard Records debut, Good and Reckless and True. That CD's 11 cuts centered on the rich, melodic vocals of singer/guitarist Tim Warren and occasional churning electric guitar bursts from Eric Donnelly and Mike Sembos. A Sucker's Dream (released February 24 on Vanguard), the bands 2009 follow-up – produced again by Jay Joyce (Derek Trucks Band, The Duhks) – builds on that success, adding more grinding electric guitar and layered vocal effects, clearly aimed at a mainstream radio audience.
That's immediately evident on the anthemic, hard rocking opener "On and On We Whisper." Gone is the sweet mix of Warren's acoustic guitar and warm, melodious vocals, replaced by a screaming chorus and clanging electric guitars and closing with a wailing wall of feedback. The din calms on the lovely, acoustic based road song "All That I See" and the somber "Already November," which blends electric and acoustic guitar with Warren's sultry Bono-esque howl, along with rolling Hammond organ. There's a subtle Latin funk on the CD's first single, "The Future's Nothing New," though that flare is nearly stifled under a heavy rumble of thumping bass and layered vocals and high pitched electric guitar solos.
The Alternate Routes sound best when they let Warren's baritone take the lead on cuts such as the melodic and ethereal "Just a Dream" and the soulful and elegant miner's lament "Never Gonna Be Rich." The CDs centerpiece and most beautiful song, the nearly 6-minute long "Desdemona," is a lovely acoustic duet that features the honeyed vocals of Patty Griffin and Warren's sensual tone and gentle strums, as well as brushed percussion.
It may indeed be A Sucker's Dream, but with this mix of driving, anthemic rockers and polished, melodic melodies it could turn out to be more than just a pipe dream for The Alternate Routes.
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