MacDougal Blues, a solo project from Kevn Kinney of the Georgia band Drivin' and Cryin', is refreshingly unsentimental. Kinney takes a clear-eyed look at the rural South and finds a restlessness that is strangely urban yet very American. Kinney's straightforward lyrics tell the stories of searchers in "T-shirts, boots and jeans" who have "just misplaced a dream or two." Lost and Found details the death of a rocky relationship while Not Afraid to Die is the terse plea of a man unable to express emotional pain. The narrator of Hey Landlord (Meatloaf and Fishsticks) literally doesn't have two coins to rub together and is about to be evicted.
Peter Buck of R.E.M. produced MacDougal Blues. His mostly hands-off approach allows the lovely sounds of dulcimers, cellos, mandolins and banjos to augment rather than diminish Kinney's reedy, folky voice.
Considering that Kinney is an accomplished musician in a relatively successful band, the blue-collar angst he lays on a la Springsteen gets a little thick at times. But more often, MacDougal Blues conveys with sincerity the unquiet feelings of one who has walked desolate roads and returned to tell the tale.
An amalgam of hard-core cacophony and percussion-driven acid house, Soundclash, the first album from Renegade Soundwave, lives up to its name. The British trio produces a synthesized racket too enervating to dance to, too agitating to sit and listen to and too commanding to just shut off or ignore.
Karl Bonnie's detached vocals are a stark counterpoint against Renegade Soundwave's lyrical subject matter. Most songs are menacing, dark observations of the London underworld that seem to both celebrate violence and condemn it. All this is mixed into a relentless groove of drums and bass, with samples of everything from Bad Company guitar riffs to radio talk show chatter thrown in.
Renegade Soundwave orbits into and out of many different musical styles. Some listeners will like certain songs on Soundclash and hate others. But Renegade Soundwave's personal, in-your-face style makes the band unforgettable and proves that uneasiness doesn't necessarily equal unpleasantness.