grounds for breaking in the mainstream

Drowning With Land In Sight (Myrrh)

The 77s

By Robert Gruber

There is no one quite like Mike Roe of the 77s. An amazing singer, guitarist and songwriter, gifted with a sarcastic wit and a natural aversion to the cliché, Roe is the quintessential rock star. Had he chosen to hand his talent over to the devil (like so many others), Mike Roe could be ... oh, I don't know, bigger than Elvis, maybe.

Or maybe not. However, because the 77s are on a Christian label, their music goes pretty much ignored by the world at large. A shame, because the 77s have a rich discography of extraordinary, thought-provoking and at times risque music in an industry that is all too often "sanitized for your protectron."

On this disc, the band has sharpened both its focus and its edge to create a serious, turbulent, compelling masterpiece. The twelve songs on Drowning ... deal largely with the sometimes crippling burden of living in a fallen world and bounce musically from style to style like rubber bullets – there is literally something for everyone.

A Led Zeppelin cover, "Nobody's Fault But Mine," opens the set with a bang. From there it's off to Soundgarden territory with "Snowblind" and "Snake." Jazzbos might like "Indian Winter" and "Mezzo" for the technical excellence, while blues fans will find "Cold, Cold Night" quite cool indeed with its Robert Cray-style leads.

The three songs that close out the disc are like an album unto themselves. "The Jig Is Up" rings like Morrisey fronting R.E.M., while "Alone Together" is propelled by a drum machine beat and aching lyrics of failing love. Finally, "For Crying Out Loud" takes us out on a hopeful mandolin note, with a solution being to cry out to Christ for redemption.

Drowning ... is a tight package, overall, despite its diversities and a definite step toward mainstream acceptance. It shouldn't be such a hassle getting music this good out to a listening audience — hopefully their label will push this disc to more than just the CCM set. The 77s are a band that needs to be heard by a lot of people.