John Wesley Harding
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It Happened One Night , 5/10
Here Comes The Groom, 6/10
The Name Above The Title , 5/10
Why We Fight, 5/10
New Deal , 4/10
Awake , 5/10
The Confessions of St Ace , 5/10
The Man With No Shadow , 5/10
Adam's Apple (2004), 5/10
Who Was Changed And Who Was Dead (2009), 4.5/10
The Sound of His Own Voice (2011), 5/10
Wesley Stace (2013), 5/10
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John Wesley Harding Stace (che ha abbreviato il nome d'arte omettendo il cognome) e` un incrocio fra Elvis Costello e Billy Bragg, tanto volubile quanto il primo e tanto polemico quanto il secondo. In generale e` un autentico prodotto della tradizione dei cantastorie da pub, talenti magari poco dotati ma genuini.

Dopo aver esordito con il folk acustico registrato dal vivo di It Happened One Night (Demon, 1988), ricco di canzoni satiriche, e l'EP God Made Me Do It (Sire), con con Here Comes The Groom e nove minuti di duetto con Vivian Stanshall (Bonzo Dog Band), Stace pubblico` quello che e` di fatto il primo vero album, Here Comes The Groom (Sire, 1990) e quello che gli guadagno` la fama di Costello dei poveri con The Devil In Me, Scared of Guns, You're No Good e When The Sun Comes Out.

Il successivo The Name Above The Title (Sire, 1991) tento` di proporre soluzioni piu` musicali, ispirandosi liberamente a Phil Spector, alla Tamla Motown, al bubblegum, con tanto di organo Hammond e sezione di fiati, ma per lo piu` lo sforzo di produzione va a suo svantaggio (I Can Tell).

Why We Fight(Sire, 1992) non migliora di molto le cose, benche' Kill The Messenger vanti un ritornello superiore alla sua media. Il limite maggiore di canzoni argute come Where The Bodies Are e Kill The Messenger e` il suo modello, Elvis Costello, del quale ripete le debolezze e le incertezze: l'ambizione, la letterarieta`, la sufficienza. Se ne libera soltanto in Hitler's Tears, una composizione ambiziosa e pero` irrisolta.

Causa una bega legale e il trasloco a San Francisco, passano quasi quattro anni prima che esca New Deal (Forward, 1996), lavoro che fin dal manifesto di To Whom It May Concern si presenta come il piu` filosofico e meno sarcastico della sua carriera, ma che alla fine si rivela anche il meno riuscito. Le vignette realiste di The Triumph Of Trash e In Paradise fanno pensare ai Kinks, ma senza il talento melodico di Davies. Kiss Me Miss Liberty and Cupid And Psycho are shy and suave folk-rock from the 1960s.

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Awake (Zero Hour, 1998 - Appleseed, 2001) and The Confessions of St Ace (Mammoth, 2000) veered towards cheerful pop, albeit without surrendering his knack for infectious melodies and erudite tales (Window Seat). On top of those, songs like Your Ghost (Moog, triangle) and Burn (cigarette lighters) also feature eccentric arrangements.

Confessions is even poppier and looser (the opening one-two punch of Humble Bee and She's A Piece Of Work, plus You in Spite of Yourself) and tunes like Bad Dream Baby, I'm Wrong About Everything and Goth Girl push it to the brink of Brit-pop. However, the real gem could be Too Much Into Nothing, a touching confession in the folksinger vein, whereas Our Lady Of The Highways is an affectionate tribute to redneck music.

The Man With No Shadow (Mammoth, 2002) boasts a formidable singalong, Sluts, and a set of pop ballads (Negative Love, Nothing At All, It Stays) that would make Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson jealous.

The pop ballads prevail on Adam's Apple (DRT, 2004), but the likes of Pull and Negative Love don't do much to make this album more listenable that the Beatles' Let It Be. The only captivating experiment is Sussex Ghost Story, a collaboration with avantgarde composer Gavin Bryars.

His first novel, "Misfortune", was also published in 2004.

After publishing two novels, Wesley Stace returned to his musical persona John Wesley Harding for Who Was Changed And Who Was Dead (2009), backed by the Minus 5, but it was another weak work.

Backed by the Decemberists Decemberists and Peter Buck of R.E.M., Harding has a nice conversation with the listener in The Sound of His Own Voice (2011), and is occasionally witty and entertaining, but not too musical. His erudition and wit redeem the folk-rock lullaby Uncle Dad, the dejected ballad I Should Have Stopped, the satirical novelty There's a Starbucks Where the Starbucks Used To Be, and the grand finale of The World in Song. Folk-rock music for the social-network generation.

Wesley Stace (2013) was even more somber meditation, and even more introverted, mostly about his own aging.

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