Monte Warden | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Monte Warden 

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On his recently issued second solo album, Here I Am (Watermelon), Austin rocker Monte Warden has lost some of the Buddy Holly influence that pervaded his terrific 1993 debut. Opting for a more contemporary sound (a la retro popsters like Nick Lowe, Marshall Crenshaw, and Chris Isaak), he's incorporated a wider slate of styles, but they're all delivered with his appealingly Holly-esque swagger. The album's title track, for example, finds Warden working a soul burner, but his clean, wholesome voice prevents the listener from getting him mixed up with Al Green. That said, Warden has a knack for devising naggingly familiar melodies and spitting them out with plenty of spark. In his music one finds an unironic yearning for simpler times; his crack band supports him with impressive economy but avoids nostalgic gimmicks. While his attempt at a contemporary-sounding ballad, the cloying, piano-heavy "Do You Remember," is an unqualified failure, the rest of the album stacks up the pleasures, from the lilting testimonial "I Need You" to the Everly Brothers-like "Teardrops" to the rousing pop of "You're in Love." Warden and his band absolutely cook live. Friday, 8 and 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 525-2508.

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