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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Paul Hare

U.S. Exodus

Review by Mike Korn

Singer-songwriters are not especially hard to find in America today. However, ones who put passion and honesty into their music are. Paul Hare should have no trouble fitting into the latter category. The music that he's conjured up for his debut CD U.S. Exodus is deceptively tuneful and easy to get into, but what gives it teeth is the slicing urgency of the lyrics and the raw power of their delivery. You can't bluff this sort of passion.

Paul's music falls into the vague category of "Americana"...a combination of rock, folk and country. This type of music rarely attracts my attention and I'll usually run a mile from pedal steel guitar, but there is something very true and personal about the songs on U.S. Exodus that lets you know it is coming from the heart.  At first listen, it was the lyrics that really drew me into the album, but repeated listens reveal that Hare is also a clever songwriter. The album has a core sound but each song has its own identity and filler is hard to find. It also helps that he has a very talented group of studio musicians helping his vision.

Kind of a lament for an America that is slowly going down the tubes, U. S. Exodus should rank high with those looking for truth in music.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
I Want To Go Back
This is a great introduction to Paul Hare's style. Opening with  breezy harmonica and strong acoustic guitar, the music is purely American and the lyrics are a heartfelt lament for a time that seems to be gone. Anybody who is dismayed by the digital madhouse that is 21st century America can relate to the story being told here. For my money, this is the best cut on the record.
Operator
Paul comes from the same city that I do and this song is surely about the decaying Midwest metropolis we both call home. Lyrics about building a new school on State Street while tearing down another school on Main Street had me nodding my head right away. This tune is one of the most country influenced on the record, with lots of pedal steel twang.
Lost & Found
This is a very quiet song relying mostly on simple acoustic guitar and Paul's own subdued vocals. Some haunting female vocals courtesy of Holland Zander add color. The song has a "three o'clock in the morning" feel to it...a sad lullaby.
Never Gave Up
A bit more up-tempo, this cut gives a little relief after the heavy stuff that's gone before. Paul tells us about a friend who broke his arm chasing after a dancer and who keeps plugging away at trying to snag her. There's a vague Latin favor to this breezy song and Hare's vocals are gutsy. "He never gave up on a situation / He never gave up, though he might have lied."
Hymn
Though this is still quite laid back and features country-sounding motifs, there's something more rock n' roll about this song that's hard to describe. It's the story of a down on her luck lady who "has no place to live, has nothing left to give." This one is short and sweet.
I Remember
This is the crunchiest rocker so far with an upbeat feel to it and some gang vocals punctuating the verses. Hare really kicks his vocal intensity up a notch here and that also adds punch to the tune. It's got clever lyrics as well.
Paradise of '47
This is also a quicker paced tune, but with a kind of sad and wistful feeling to it. The lovely Zander again adds her vocal magic, perfectly matching Paul on the chorus.  There's a great fast-picked acoustic solo. I felt the album could have used more of that instrumental mastery.
God 101
The second half of the album definitely gives way to punchier, faster material. This really reminds me a lot of Hare's fellow Rockford roots-rockers The Blind Robins. Spencer Scott's mandolin adds a cool folky touch to the cut.
Wooden Nickle
Yet more Latin/Gypsy touches suffuse this snappy song. Again, Hare's vocals are really intense and full of emotion and the song seems very personal. "Best to have less thunder in your mouth and more lightning in your hand"...that's a great line.
SST
This acoustic number follows musically pretty closely in the path of what's gone before. What makes this stand out is the strength and bitterness of lyrics that lament the passing of America's promise. Hare sounds like he's on the verge of tears during that chorus...and why not?
 
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