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Say Zuzu

Take These Turns – 1997 (Self-released)

Reviewed by Jon Johnson

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CDs by Say Zuzu

The fifth album from the New Hampshire-based Say Zuzu finds the group expanding on its Uncle Tupelo/Jayhawks-influenced brand of alt-country. Produced by the group and Emmylou Harris/Willie Nelson engineer Brad Hartman, this is the group's strongest release thus far, full of confident songwriting and a willingness to bring new instruments into the group's standard guitar/drums/bass mix, adding mandolin, pedal and lap steel guitars, fiddle and banjo.

The only problem with adding the new instrumentation is that Jon Nolan's lead guitar work - which is good, though nearly always distorted - has a more compressed, tinny tone than it had on the group's previous release, 1995's "Highway Signs & Driving Songs." It's a minor point, however. Nolan's willingness to step back in the mix has given the group the room to stretch out and the results speak for themselves.

Rhythm guitarist Cliff Murphy offers his best contribution to date in "Chamberlain's Guard," a touching story of a young man from Maine who joins up with Maine hero Col. Joshua Chamberlain's outfit during the Civil War, only to be confronted with the horrible casualties of those who preceded him when he arrives in Chamberlain's unit. Not to be outdone, Nolan shows off his terrific vocal range in "Broken," to great effect. This is one of the better alt. country releases that one can expect to hear from New England musicians in 1997. Don't miss out on it.