The Palace at 4am (Part I), Chelsea Walls

SOUNDTRACK Chelsesa Walls PRODUCER: not listed Rykodisc RCD 10624 JAY BENNETT & EDWARD BURCH The Palace at 4am (Part I) PRODUCERS: J. Bennett, E.Burch, K,Keller Undertow 0009

Though not far from the truth, Chelsea Walls' billing as a Jeff Tweedy experience is a bit misleading. Although the Wilco frontman and his current or onetime bandmates dominate the disc, Tweedy is absent on two of the set's best songs: Jimmy Scott's cover of John Lennon's "Jealous Guy" and actor Robert Sean Leonard's aching reading of Wilco's "The Lonely 1." It's the latter that proves to be the album's peak. On a wonderfully lo-fi recording, Leonard (Dead Poets Society, The Last Days of Disco) fills Tweedy's sweet (and perhaps quintessential) story of a lonely music fan's love for his favorite musician with unbearable longing and beautiful sadness. While the majority of Chelsea Walls is composed of rather forgettable instrumentals performed by Tweedy and new Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche, the disc also unearths a golden leftover from Wilco's Mermaid Avenue sessions with Billy Bragg, the traditional "When the Roses Bloom Again." Those missing the Wilco of old, following the band's forays into '60s pop and indie-spirited rock, will quickly fall for this tune, as well as new song "Promising." The album is likely to be former Wilco multi-instrumentalist Jay Bennett's swan song as a member of the group—he shows up on "Roses" (and also backs Scott on "Jealous Guy"). With The Palace at 4am (Part I)—his first outing since parting ways with Wilco—Bennett begins what could be a lengthy journey out of Tweedy's shadow. Featuring two Bennett/Tweedy co-writes, the album seems to confirm what many a Wilco fan suspected—that Bennett was less interested in making Radiohead-like experiments than a whopping slice of Americana, which he and Edward Burch deliver here. Vocally recalling Tom Petty and especially the Lemonheads' Evan Dando, Bennett and Burch's sometimes jangly, sometimes strummy tunes are sprinkled with nice moments, yet none really pop, thus commanding repeat listens.—WO