Lambchop Mr. M

LambchopMr. M
The challenge of listening to Lambchop has long been penetrating the dreamy lushness of the band's sound in order to unlock the complex messages at the heart of singer-songwriter Kurt Wagner's lyrics. Since coalescing around Wagner in the mid-'90s, nearly everything about Lambchop has appeared incongruous with their Nashville surroundings. Even though Wagner's always looked like a farmer, he really wanted to be Curtis Mayfield, in spite of his limited, half-spoken vocal range. But as Wagner's artistic vision has expanded with each Lambchop album, what he has essentially done is taken the '60s concept of the "countrypolitan sound" to its natural extreme, where the soothing sounds of strings and unhurried tempos become the vehicles conveying the listener through complicated emotional territory. That's certainly the case with Mr. M, which is dedicated to the late Vic Chesnutt, a close friend of Wagner's. The first words Wagner sings are "What the fuck," and from there he goes on to question the meaning of existence from various perspectives. The profound sadness imbued in Mr. M, something that hasn't necessarily been as apparent on previous Lambchop albums, lends a consistency that produces a satisfying meditative effect. Call it Zen country, but when Wagner sings in "Kind Of" that, "it's not how much you make, but what you learn," he couldn't be more accurate. (Merge)