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John Train

Angels Turned Thieves – 1999 (Record Cellar)

Reviewed by Rachel Leibrock

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CDs by John Train

Borrowing its name from an obscure moniker '60's troubadour Phil Ochs used to play under before his suicide in 1976, John Train crafts country-tinged acoustic music that speaks as much of the present as it does the past.

The Philadelphia quintet's debut is ripe with images that conjure up visions of both a gentler, sepia-toned yesterday and a crueler today. "When you've had a few you look prettier than you are. When I've had a few, I fall for you," muses singer-songwriter Jon Houlon on "You Come to Me." Touching on everything from lost loves and betrayal to the Civil War and the media culture, Houlon writes protest songs that use the personal experience to convey a larger message.

Set against an quiet backdrop of fiddle, dobro, bass and mandolin, Houlon's time-worn voice laments the decline of western civilization as experienced by a city boy who's lost his girl. Much like Phil Ochs and Woody Guthrie, Houlon seems to understand that you can reach more ears if you speak the common man's language. ( E-Mail: nd@record-cellar..com)