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Bruce Henderson
Alternative Folk

A New Yorker by way of his native Oklahoma, Bruce Henderson's heart is still out on the plains, where the horizon goes on forever, where life isn't as simple as it seems on the surface, and where the earth itself is ready to swallow up the weak. On his second solo album, Henderson details a lot of skullduggery going on in this deceptively placid ecosystem. "Nobody ever said life was easy/ Nobody ever said life wasn't tough/ Nobody ever said much at all/ In the place where I come from," he sings in "Flatlands," a song whose insistent marching rhythm, sprightly accordion solos, and fuzz-toned, trebly guitar solos evoke a jaunty Tejano feel that's at odds with the desolation and isolation described in the lyrics. Henderson has a lot of Joe Ely in him, in his dry, husky voice -- which sounds exactly like it should for these sort of tales -- in his terse, muscular phrasing, in his unforgiving Southwestern mise-en-scene, and in his writer's eye that sees shadows where others see light. "I Wanted To," for example, is a litany of roads not taken and devils left unexorcised ("I never shot a man down in cold blood for taking what I had/ But I wanted to"). Similar gut-wrenching twists dot Henderson's mesmerizing songs, making BEYOND THE PALE a rich and memorable experience from first cut to last. David McGee

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