Cool Spin: Jackie Greene, American Myth (Verve/Forecast)

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Breaking away somewhat from his rep as the latest “new Dylan” (a mantle he wears better than most), Sacramento, Calif., singer-songwriter Jackie Greene hands over the production reins for this—his major-label debut after a few indie discs—to Steve Berlin (see the April 2006 “Producer’s Desk”) with stunning results. Stylistically, this album covers a lot of ground, from all-out rockers to hard, bluesy rambles, to introspective acoustic guitar-based tunes. But there’s overall intelligence and unity of purpose coursing through all these songs that make them feel like different snapshots of the same person—which they are, of course. The main band—Val McCallum, Davey Faragher and Pete Thomas (ably assisted by the likes of Berlin and steel guitar titan Greg Leisz)—sound like they’ve been playing with Greene forever, and Greene adds much to the brew with his sturdy fingerpicking and varied keyboard textures. Nearly all the songs deal with the beauty, misery, mystery and complications of the human heart—in “Love Song; 2 a.m.” he wonders about the allure of a female friend: “Maybe it’s the perfume that I know she doesn’t wear/Maybe it’s the way she dances when she thinks there ain’t nobody there.” Then on the very next song, he tells his girl, “Maybe it’s just better that you never stay/I love you more while you’re walking away.” Good stuff. And if “new Dylan” is what you’re after, check out the epic “Supersede,” which sounds like it could’ve been lifted from Blonde on Blonde—and has that kind of power, too.

Producer: Steve Berlin. Engineer: Mark Johnson. Mixed by Robert Caranza & Chris Shaw. Recording Studios: Sage & Sound, Sonora Recorders, Redstar (all in Hollywood). Mixing Studio: Glenwood Place (Burbank, CA), Avatar (New York City). Mastering: Robert Hadley/The Mastering Lab. —Blair Jackson