Hudson Bell When the Sun Is the Moon

The distortion pedal is an amazing thing; so effective in many situations, yet so hard to master. Hudson Bell, leader of the band that bear his name, has written seven fine folk rock songs for this debut album, yet in his desire to be a full-on rock auteur in the style of Neil Young, Built To Spill’s Doug Martsch or (dare I say it) Billy Corgan, he loses himself in his pedal board, rendering the outcome surprisingly flaccid. Okay, recording aesthetics aside, the Baton Rouge-born, San Francisco-based Bell is a promising songwriter, delivering his poetry with a Bright Eyes-like conviction. The swaying acoustic country rock number "The Midnight Year” is the album’s clear highlight, and the following "Strange Lands,” does manage to build to something close to epic. But it is Bell’s choice to do most of the work himself that makes obvious the lack of dynamics that only a group of individuals like Crazy Horse can achieve. When the Sun Is the Moon shows that Bell is working with a solid musical foundation, but there’s nothing fully constructed yet. (Monitor)