That fact runs like a black undercurrent in every note and word: Chaney doesn't wallow in the horror, he owns up to it, even if the responsibility might crush him. Compared with such severe, unbearable truths, the gratuitous, po'-black-folk accent he gives to "Patches" (a hit for Clarence Carter and Alabama) mars an otherwise intense communication of working-class reality. And if the zeitgeist politics of "Heather's All Bummed Out" -- a snapshot of a disillusioned, Volvo-driving yuppie -- and the left-wing jeremiad "It'd Be Sad If It Weren't So Funny" sound as if they could have been co-written with Michael Moore, the best of Chaney's songs live up to his notices and ring with a scabrous honesty that's his alone. With or without a band, Lonesome Bob's lyrical fury and thundering baritone don't just redeem any trace of singer/songwriter self-absorption -- they kick it into the messy, unforgiving streets of life, where it belongs.
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