Lost In America Label: Vanguard
Edwin McCain has carved himself a nice little piece of America. His slightly raspy, southern-but-not-hillbilly vocal is almost as recognizable as anyone this side of Jagger, Tyler, or Mellencamp. And though he may be lumped into the singer/songwriter genre by default, McCain is more of a pop/rock artist – a dude with guitar that has a rocking band behind him. His latest, Lost in America, is McCain’s best since 1999’s Messenger. With a knack for telling stories and singing them with conviction, McCain and his band serve up some southern fried rock on this set that brings to mind the best work of Sister Hazel and Hootie – shoot, even ZZ Top.
Okay, you can pretty much take the opening track, “Gramercy Park Hotel,” and throw it away. It is one of those radio-friendly, high burn rate songs that, with its “la-di-da” refrain, is almost as annoying as Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl.” So let’s start with track two, shall we?
“The Kiss” is a made-for-TV soundtrack song, breezy but with some really slick guitar work. “Welcome to Struggleville” is a driving rocker that may be a bit predictable musically, but it’s a good kind of predictable – and with words like “I’ve been trying to negotiate peace / With my own existence,” McCain cements himself as an understated lyricist that paints a vivid picture. The title track is a bit bland, maybe akin to Mellencamp’s “Pink Houses,” but it’s still addictive as hell. Then McCain and his boys really turn up the volume on “Bitter and Twisted” and “Babylon,” rock songs that could measure up to anything by the Black Crowes. Yes, I mentioned Edwin McCain and the Black Crowes in the same sentence – you too won’t believe it unless you hear it.
And “Losing Tonight” is a laid back, acoustic-driven song that longtime fans of Edwin will love.
Lost in America is good driving music, the kind of album that can make traversing through the cornfields of our country more tolerable. But more than anything, Edwin McCain has shown us that he is a force to be reckoned with for years to come. He’s got the voice, he’s got the band, and now he’s shown that he’s got the ability to bring some rock to the party.