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There are echoes of inspirations here: "Telephone Road" lopes along Springsteen-style; "You Know the Rest" is the sort of slangy, mock-historical ditty that Dylan used to deliver before he lost his sense of humor and his will to live; and the bluegrass zip of "I Still Carry You Around" recalls Bill Monroe. But what's best about El Corazon is the presence of songs like "Poison Lovers," a gorgeous duet with Siobhan Kennedy, and "Here I Am," a self-mythologizing country rocker (with the accent on rock) -- efforts whose singularity ensures that they will sound great long after Earle is dust. The tale of the artist underappreciated in his own time is a familiar one, and Earle, a man whose voice frequently mixes impudence, anger, and regret into an aural Molotov, would likely have little patience for it. But while interchangeable pretty boys in $200 hats croon hackneyed rhymes against generic musical backdrops, Earle is quietly adding another heartfelt chapter to this nation's musical heritage. It would be nice if someone noticed.

-- Michael Roberts

Sweet 75
Sweet 75
(DGC)

Let's get this straight right now: Nirvana has absolutely nothing to do with Sweet 75. While Dave Grohl has taken things in a logical progression with his Foo Fighters, the other half of the Nirvana rhythm section, bassist Krist Novoselic, is responsible for this disaster -- which, one can safely assume, has been thrust upon the public because Novoselic played bass for America's latest favorite suicide.

"I'm dirty and cranky/The world's my ashtray," howls Novoselic's cranky cohort, Yva Las Vegas, in "Lay Me Down," and it goes way down from there. If Vegas's moniker conjures images of desolation and despair, Sweet 75 is determined to make good on the promise. Novoselic's guitar work is clunky and stuttering, mired in awkward transitions and tiring, vainglorious solos; Vegas shrieks like a smoke-choked Linda Perry, waxing woeful, angry, and abused in a host of self-defeating tales ("I used to be lovely/But now I'm not"). Well, um, I think we're clear on that. Only on "La Vida" does Vegas actually bother to carry a tune. Sweet 75 hits an abysmal low with "Poor Kitty," which allows the singer to scream herself hoarse.

-- Stephen Gershon

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