Brute Co-balt

Vic Chesnutt has been floundering ever since his 1997 major label experience, but this side project is his best album since About to Choke. With muscular backing from Widespread Panic behind him, each song was rehearsed and recorded the same day. Chesnutt's songs pack more punch than they ever have, sounding like he's substituted caffeine for alcohol. Some of his fragile charm might be sacrificed, but he's made enough of those records already, and this is every bit as colourful, only much louder. The tough riff on "Scholarship" sounds like a dark outtake from R.E.M.'s Green, while "You've Got It All Wrong" recalls the Southern-fried rock/pop of early Wilco. The kicker is the rootsy piano pop of "Adirondacks," which has a classic Chesnutt catchy chorus that celebrates "grinding ax in the Adirondacks." It's Chesnutt's most conventional record to date, but hey, Tom Petty sure could use a kick in the ass. (Outside)