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WPA

Works Progress Administration – 2009 (WPA Records)

Reviewed by Greg Yost

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CDs by WPA

One of the key agencies in FDR's New Deal initiative was the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a federally-funded organization that provided almost 8 million jobs from 1935-1943. Along with general labor jobs like building and road construction, the WPA also focused on jobs in the arts with programs like the Federal Art Project - an initiative that allowed visual artists to create projects like murals and posters.

Given this historic perspective, it should come as no surprise that the Glen Phillips, Sean Watkins and Luke Bulla decided to name their latest artistic endeavor after the WPA.

This new WPA is a "supergroup" comprised of singers, songwriters and musicians that have performed together over the years at both Largo, a now-defunct club in Los Angeles, and Largo At The Coronet, the club's new home. Phillips (Toad The Wet Sprocket), Watkins (Nickel Creek) and Bulla (Lyle Lovett) were joined by Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek), Benmont Tench (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers), Greg Leisz (Joni Mitchell) and Pete Thomas and Davey Faragher, the outstanding rhythm section from Elvis Costello's The Impostors, to record the WPA's debut release.

Although the overall album tends to be a little uneven as a singular artistic statement, the individual songs on the collection are all excellent. Two of Phillips' contributions, Good As Ever and Always Have My Love, are memorable pieces of catchy up-tempo pop, while both Bulla's Remember Well and Sean Watkins' Not Sure are considerably more somber but equally as impressive.

Other highlights from this self-titled album include The Price, a tender piano ballad from Tench with vocals provided by Sara Watkins and A Wedding Or A Wake, a rousing country stomper unlike any other song on the set.