A captivating method to the madness

Sonoran Hope and Madness (EmmaJava Recordings)
Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers

By Kevin Gibson

Roger Clyne hooked me with his previous band, the Refreshments, and its Tex-Mex-flavored romps. It was joyous and smart-assed and inventive all at once - a can't miss formula, especially with its interesting cultural bent.

Since the breakup of that band, Clyne's songwriting style has toned down a bit; the attitude is still there, it's just wearing jeans and a plain t-shirt instead of jams and a Hawaiian button-down. Even in tunes like "Bury My Heart at the Trailer Park," Clyne's sense of humor is tempered just enough to keep it from being at all dismissible. His style reminds me more and more of Bob Walkenhorst of the longstanding Kansas City band the Rainmakers (that's a compliment).

At any rate, Clyne's progression is working. In this album he works between hard-edged roots-rockers and Spanish waltzes, tossing in a beautiful acoustic instrumental version of "Home on the Range" just to keep us honest.

My favorite tune on this disc, "Ashes of San Miguel," is a buddy song that expresses deep, complex emotion while ironically trumpeting how unemotional it is. It's the story of someone whose guilt after the death of his best friend has changed his way of looking at things. While it isn't anything terribly extraordinary, it resonates. It just works. Check it out: "Tell me why/I gotta drain a bottle dry/Before I can cry/Before I can cry over you." He moves forward to confront the reality of death and his own regret: "Life is cheap here and death is rich/He finally got you, lucky son of a bitch/And if I could do it again/I'd cry aloud at your hospital bed."

Best of all, Clyne is real. He grew up in the American southwest and his writing voice, both musical and lyrical, reflect that. It makes him all the more credible. Buy this album soon.