Jolene Antic Ocean

With a name like Jolene, you'd think these guys have a prime seat on the No Depression bandwagon. Turns out these North Carolinians have more in common with the southern gothic tendencies of Vic Chesnutt and Out Of Time-era REM. On their third album, the five-piece takes an even more acoustic turn than on the previous records, resulting in a laid-back mix of archaic folk-rock and purple prose. Writer/guitarists Dave Burris and John Crooke seem to be striving for the same gilded beauty that Joe Pernice achieved so effortlessly on Overcome By Happiness, but what betrays lead vocalist Crooke is a voice that too often resembles Hootie's Darius Rucker. There are some moments when pop mastery is achieved, but these are undermined by the many unfavourable reminders of other bands. That is, unless you're into Hootie, in which case you'll probably appreciate the deep thoughts on Antic Ocean. Top marks, though, for covering Sandy Denny's "John The Gun." However, its inclusion simply underscores how far some American bands still have to go in creating truly affecting folk-rock. (ISRG)