Southern rock rebirth

Wade (Autonomous)
Jupiter Coyote

By Allen Howie

Southern rock is alive and well. The proof is all over the ten tracks that make up Wade, the new album from Jupiter Coyote. Imagine John Mellencamp and John Hiatt fronting the Allman Brothers, but with the Spin Doctors rhythm section and you'll have at least a fair idea of what to expect. If I had heard this record a couple of weeks earlier, it would have easily sneaked onto my list of the year's ten best.

Based in Macon, Ga., Jupiter Coyote is fronted by John Felty and Matthew B. Mayes, who share the chores on vocals and guitars. Pulling everything together is a skintight rhythm section, with Gene H. Bass, Jr. on (surprise) drums, Sanders Brightwell on bass and David Stevens, Jr. on percussion. The sound is lean and melodic, a fluid blend of influences that emerges with an identity all its own.

Wade begins with the clipped rhythms and obtuse lyrics of "Flight of the Lorax," then slips into the easy gait of "On Trial," a tune about the often-high cost of sticking to your guns, with some pretty twin lead guitar dropped in front and back.

"Ballad of Lucy Edenfield" sprints along over a bluegrass beat, the tale of yet another country girl drawn to the big city lights, with trouble and some breakneck mandolin nipping at her heels. The band dashes into Charlie Daniels territory with the sturdy backbeat of "Hopkins County Stew," then boils the confusion of modern living down to its essence on " The Rea1 Thing." The comparison with the Allmans comes clearest in the relaxed pulse of "Narrow Line," a gentle poke at how we needlessly complicate our own lives and a nod to the value of simplicity. "Cindi" puts a new spin on an old joke, but laid into a groove so sturdy and playing so sweet that it would shine just as brightly no matter the subject.

"Lies" is one of those tunes that keeps shifting the vantage point just enough to make you wonder who's fooling whom, which is probably the point. "Modern Creek" is about the only environmental song I've ever heard that avoids sounding preachy or losing the music in the message. It's a feat the band manages not once, but twice, dealing with broader social issues on "Blue Agave."

Wade is one of those albums you'll want to turn all your friends on to; the only problem then will be waiting for Jupiter Coyote's next one. Here's hoping the wait is brief.