January 29, 2009
He’s gone country, back to his roots.With Changing Horses, Ben Kweller shifts gears into a new groove, adding a touch of twang to his earnest tales of yearning. The Texas-bred bard, whose quirky pop has served as a guide to glory for the heartbroken, is now an Americana mystery in the spirit of Gram Parsons.
The shaggy-haired minstrel loves his Garth, but he sings and plays with a quiet hush that’s more Western wear than arena rock. Equal parts Cali folk and alt-pop, Changing Horses is proof that Nashville slick isn’t the only way to do country. His use of a whispering pedal steel is just the twinge of tradition to ground these hopeful hymns. Whether praising a woman’s virtuous way (“On Her Own”) or pining for romantic revival (“Wantin’ You Again”), Kweller leaves doubt in the dust, pressing on past old regrets towards new frontiers.
Kweller minds his manners, too. In a show of Southern hospitality, he thanks a hooker girlfriend for being such sweet company on the sad ”Gypsy Rose.” Bless his ever-lovin’ heart.