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Raisins in the Sun

Some musicians spend their downtime on the ski slopes; others check into the rehab clinic -- but a handful of true believers spend their vacations playing more music. And that's just what this gaggle of acclaimed, if underrated, performers did a few months back -- fortunately, with the tapes rolling. Raisins in the Sun are a loose aggregation of folks, including power-pop legend Jules Shear, roots-rock guitar guru Chuck Prophet, and production legend/keyboard master Jim Dickinson (whose swampy sounds have graced releases by the Rolling Stones, Replacements, and Ry Cooder, to list just the R's). Shaken and stirred together, the sounds take on a flavor that's utterly unique and almost always offbeat -- from the Tejano choogle of "Old Times Again" to the finger-popping jive of "Glenn and Stone." Shear's wry lyrics bubble up from the mix often enough to get the gray matter involved -- as on the chilling yet comic "Post Apocalyptic Observations" -- yet never get in the way of the greasy progress of the down-and-dirty riffs. Dickinson, who packs acres of Dixie dirt into tunes like "Chicken Fried," is nicely balanced by the team of Sean Slade and Paul Kolderie (best known for producing Radiohead and Hole, among others), who bring a burnished yet homey sheen to the proceedings with smartly placed guitar and organ hooks. Bet ya can't eat just one. David Sprague

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