August and Everything After Label: Geffen Records
Many die-hard fans of this band think they peaked with this record. No doubt, it is a special piece of work whether it's their best or not. When I first heard singer Adam Duritz' voice I thought he was a cheap imitation of Van Morrison. But when I realized this band had song after song of poignant stories, big hooks and straight-out some of the best material to come along in quite some time, I was able to put them on their own pedestal.
"Mr. Jones" was the first single, and while it is not my favorite track it certainly is catchy. "Round Here," the opening track, is vintage Duritz the storyteller, and quite possibly the most popular Crows song ever. There are a lot of offbeat drums to complement the percussive acoustic guitars, especially in songs like "Anna Begins," which is a big favorite of die-hards -- I've even seen Web sites based on it. "Time and Time Again" is a soft, almost bluesy ballad with a B3 organ doing a counter-melody with Duritz' voice. "Rain King" was another big single and songs like "Sullivan Street" and "Raining in Baltimore" make you realize why the dude's voice has become part of Americana. "A Murder of One" was the biggest radio hit that never was, or maybe the label was anxious to jump on the next release.
If you're into music that tells stories and weaves pretty melodies and dynamic instrumentation around them, this should be in your collection if it isn't already. Duritz quite simply is up there with the great American storytellers of the last few generations, from Dylan to Springsteen to Petty.