My Front Porches

If you came of age in the '70s or '80s, chances are good that you don't see the divide between the type of sweetly soulful Americana practiced by the Jayhawks and the dramatic, whiskey-bent electricit

If you came of age in the '70s or '80s, chances are good that you don't see the divide between the type of sweetly soulful Americana practiced by the Jayhawks and the dramatic, whiskey-bent electricity of the Afghan Whigs to be all that vast. Like many of his peers, Sam Jones doesn't drive a wedge between the two bands, whose influences show up in varying degrees on his debut disc, My Front Porches. Like so many of his singer/ songwriter peers, Jones—who has made a name for himself as a rock photographer and as the director of the new Wilco documentary I Am Trying to Break Your Heart—no doubt blurs the line between Sid and Springsteen, between The Last Waltz and Alive, between Neil Young and Neil Diamond. That's not to say My Front Pages explodes into Sex Pistols or Kiss-worthy pyrotechnics or wears a silly, '70s-pop hat. Instead, it's perhaps an explanation of why this 10-track set is so wonderfully schizophrenic, leaping from guitar-driven midtempos that feature exhilarating, Royal Truxian eruptions ("Hopped Up Bastard") to breathy Brit-pop ("Astronauts in Motion"); harmonica-laden, Dust Bowl balladry (the sweet "Freeway," probably the album's best track) to bouncy, Bacharachian piano pop ("Smile When You Frown"). And that is perhaps what sets this group of songs apart from the pack right now. While the generation of artists to which he belongs was most certainly exposed and influenced by perhaps the most diverse group of rock and pop music in the history of rock'n'roll, too few have the courage to embrace and showcase their various influences on disc. Jones' courage comes through loud and clear, and it's that courage that makes the album a winning debut.—WO