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 Louisville, Kentucky

Jonathan Gregg (center) and the Lonesome Debonaires
will be in town Tuesday.

Pop Music Critic

Jonathan Gregg and the Lonesome Debonaires (Jagdisc)
Formats: CD

    Listening to Jonathan Gregg and the Lonesome Debonaires is like climbing a coffee table and looking around your living room. Everything is just as it was a moment before, but the fresh perspective provides a pleasant jolt.
   Gregg writes songs from atop that table. He has a wonderful skewed perspective on music that bends and blends genres with an engaging ease, creating a sound both distinctive and warmly familiar.
    A lifelong New Yorker, Gregg conjures music that isn't region specific — not by a long shot. He seamlessly merges rock, folk, pop and a subtle country charm into the kind of stuff that has you singing along by the second chorus of your first listen.
    That's a key to what makes Gregg so good. He's from a school in which melody rules, and he has plenty of melodies; every song claims at least one, some two or three, with Gregg doing balancing act between guitar and vocal hooks.
    And the Lonesome Debonaires play like some extension of Gregg's psyche, matching him nuance for nuance. From the whirlwind romp of "Girl About a Song" to the achingly simple "Let's Not Talk Anymore," Gregg and the Debonaires prove that the band's the thing.

    Gregg, by the way, is a wonderful guitarist, one with major chops and the good sense not to abuse them. His solos may be showcases, but they never lose sight of the song, and every time you think one has run its course, Gregg finds a fresh direction.
    Then there are Gregg's remarkable lyrics — this just gets better and better, eh? — which are insightful and clever to the point of preciousness. But only to the point of; Gregg rarely crosses the line. Instead, he bolts for the edge of that cliff only to skid to a stop, letting you enjoy the rush without tumbling over the side. You're left reaching for the lyric sheet, shaking your head at the sheer joy of his wordplay.
    One of the best examples comes in the brilliant "Staying on Catherine," a love song with a hing of doom about a man who relentlessly pursues a relationship with a woman he may not even like. It's a perfect showcase for Gregg's maze-like double meanins: "Pour in all the love you've got and see if she says when..." and later, "I had a friend well I needed her more than I needed him Cause in a squeeze the handshake's weaker than staying on Catherine..." 
   It's the same old thing said in a brand new way, just as with the music. "Blue on Blonde" is littered with equally satisfying moments, although there are a few less inspired songs. But Gregg's debut remains one of the year's real treats, an independent release that begs for major-label distribution.
    Until Gregg strikes a deal, "Blue on Blonde" is available at ear X-tacy or from Gregg by writing him in care of Jagdisc, 304 Mulberry Street, No LJ, New York, NY 10012 ($15 per CD).
    Even better, buy a copy from Gregg himself Tuesday night when had and the Debonainres stop by the Butchertown Pub, 1335 Story Ave. Music starts around 9:30 p.m., and it's free, which is the best deal in town. Gregg's Louisville show several months ago was mighty good, and this one should be no less.     

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