Wes McDonald 1:50 in the Furnace

From Birmingham, AL by way of Athens, GA, singer-songwriter Wes McDonald seems to owe more to the latter than the former, as his roots rock sounds are often polished with a jangle pop sheen more in keeping with the ’80s indie Mecca than anything found down in the Delta. Produced by Wilco’s Ken Coomer, 1:50 in the Furnace is McDonald’s fourth album and one that ably traverses the lines between power pop, country and rock. "Shot Stereo” and "Chinese Rug” are ragged rockers from the Paul Westerberg mould, though with more outward polish and with choruses sunnier than they are scruffy. Likewise, the excellent "What’s Comin’ Over Me” and the title track toy with ramshackle untidiness, but McDonald’s inherent pop smarts ensure neither song goes off the rails; "All Revved Up,” meanwhile, finds the heretofore unexplored spot where Steve Earle and the Rolling Stones collide. McDonald displays a lighter touch on the smooth country rock of "Day One” and the pop-tastic album opener "I Would Never” (the latter of which unexpectedly recalls Joe Jackson), while the sardonic take on gender politics in "Brethren” reveals a unique lyric voice. Wes McDonald may be thus far unheralded but 1:50 in the Furnace should not go unnoticed. (MVD)