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Jay Bennett

The Beloved Enemy – 2004 (Undertow)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by Jay Bennett

After his departure from Wilco, multi-instrumentalist Jay Bennett teamed up with like-minded roots pop aficionado Edward Burch for "The Palace at 4am," an exquisite basement collaboration that rivaled anything Bennett accomplished with Wilco (particularly "Summerteeth") and stood easily with similarly toned works by Beulah or Joe Pernice.

Bennett's subsequent releases, this past spring's "Bigger Than Blue" and the just released "The Beloved Enemy," are much starker sonic and emotional statements. Stripped to basic yet powerfully utilized elements, "The Beloved Enemy" finds Bennett in bedroom demo mode, hammering out a creaking set of dusty and expansive contemporary folk songs with a Tom-Waits-conducts-Elvis-Costello vibe. There are also moments of subtle dissonance in Enemy's undercurrent, proving that Jeff Tweedy isn't the only one with an ear for discordant harmony. Bennett doesn't create with the masses in mind, but his work has the same achingly imperfect perfection that has marked Neil Young's most intimate releases.