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James Talley and John Carroll "Entropy" and "Rough the Road"

The 11 songs on "Entropy, Songs About Basic Concepts" deal with basics such as "Pride," "Inertia," "Gravity" and "Liberty," while also portraying male/female relationships. Carroll writes the words and Talley handles the vocals, arrangements and instruments. Carroll's lyrics are terrific and twisted throughout. His great description of Tex O'Day and Sue Goodnight in a "Ring of Fire"-inspired "Gravity" is a case in point: "He spoke about St. Augustine/he was the smartest stud in Abilene … she spoke about the Pleistocene/she was the smartest gal in Abilene." Talley conveys the songs with raw, unfettered vocal abandon, and he manages to sing in a wild conglomeration of styles that will make you bet you are hearing half a dozen different singers during the course of this project. Bottom line, "Entropy" is a great, mad mix of experimentation that works throughout. Think Tom Waits meets Beggars Banquet-era Rolling Stones with a dash of the Velvet Underground thrown in for all of you New York City rockers.

"Rough the Road" is another product altogether. Forsaking rough-hewn rock for a spiritual journey to the land of William Butler Yeats, Carroll and Talley create a different brand of enigmatic tale involving the quest of four sailors. At first, these 18 songs of search and redemption struck me as mostly incomprehensible, but closer listening revealed a well-crafted and intriguing story line. Talley's hard-charging yet simple whistles, guitars and keyboards frame Carroll's words effortlessly, while his vocal styles range from that of a raspy, hard-drinking sailor to a David Bowie-like balladeer. Neither of these CDs is for quiet, contemplative times, and a certain amount of cacophony comes into play. But a listen will reveal a team successful at stretching musical boundaries. What's next guys? — Ames Arnold

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