James Jackson Toth, 'Waiting in Vain' (Ryko)

6
Waiting in Vain
Critical Mass
Label: Rykodisc

by Shannon Zimmerman

Absent MySpace/YouTube flash, how does a literary singer/songwriter type like Toth hope to make an impression, especially now that he's abandoned Wooden Wand's freakier folk for smoother tunes? Well, pray the restaurant and lounge crowd is ready for a scruffy fellow traveler who can sing about "Cocaine and bourbon / Pinball and pool" without prompting any check requests. Those lyrical pairings come courtesy of "Look In on Me," a soul-drenched slow-burner that, in five-plus minutes, captures Toth's knack for Southern sensibility and beatific sloth -- traits that also infuse "Midnight Watchman," a loping, closely harmonized country rocker that could be a lost Tom Petty nugget.

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