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Mando Saenz

Bucket – 2008 (Carnival)

Reviewed by Stuart Munro

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CDs by Mando Saenz

Since his first record, Mando Saenz has moved from his home state of Texas to Tennessee, where he called upon the services of various Nashville Cats, including singer- songwriter Kim Richey and guitar slingers Kenny Vaughan, Richard Bennett, and R.S. Field (who also produced the record), in making this follow-up release.

He's still writing songs that are models of ellipsis and that skirt narrative in favor of mood (a result that's abetted by his raspy, keening vocals), but this record sounds both more electric and more varied than the mournful instrumentation and rootsy fare of his debut. The swirl and atmospherics of the opening track, "Wrong Guy," gives way to the album's finest moment, "Pocket of Red," and then to the loping country rock of the bar song, "Seven Dollars," to the almost-AAA-ready "A Touch Is All," and to pop that's muscular and banjo-laced in "I Don't Like It," and lush and layered, full of strings, soaring choruses and My Sweet Lord guitar riffs in "Come Out Tonight." What Saenz's first record promised, his second has delivered.