Reviewed by Tony Cummings
Back in 1997, when Cross Rhythms first heard the self-titled debut album by Smalltown Poets, we were keen to give the album's songs "Everything I Hate" and "Anymore" fulsome praise and considerable airplay. But that was then, and this is now, and it was a considerable surprise when the news came through that the band, originally from Georgia, were back with a full-length release. Yep, I know that down the years they've put out occasional Christmas EPs, but I've never really been able to take such things that seriously. It's good to see and hear these guys back, and although Michael Johnston and his bandmates don't quite deliver their very best (for that, you need to look for 2004's 'It's Later Than It's Ever Been'), this is still pretty strong. 'Say Hello' has some appealing minor key piano lines played by Danny Stephens with his usual finesse, one or two influences from acts like The Wallflowers and The Gin Blossoms and some literary references like on the title track opener and on the autobiographical "Are You With Me?". Not everything works. I didn't really care for the soul-tinged "Impossible" even though it features the wonderful Memphis Horns while even the powerful voice of Mac Powell on "You're My Shepherd" cannot save a fairly mundane song and arrangement. But wait, there's one track here, tucked away as track nine, which is as good as anything the band have recorded. I refer to "Like Home", which features Eric & Ruby Montgomery & The Grace Choir. Gospel singer Eric, or Rick as he sometimes calls himself, has a raspingly bluesy voice and absolutely nails the song about not having to wait to get to Heaven before experiencing it here on earth. Expect to hear "Like Home" and "Say Hello" on Cross Rhythms radio and here's hoping the group don't plump for another lengthy sabbatical.
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