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Jonathan Gregg (vocals, guitar); the Lonesome Debonaires (vocals and instrumentals); John Linnell (accordian). Girl About a Song; Blue on Blonde; By Heart Again; Empty Rooms; White Picket Fence Life; Heartache 109; All Bygones; and six others. JAGDISC, JAG 007 (49 min.) $12.25 postpaid from Jagdisc, 304 Mulberry St., New York, NY 10012.

Performance: Major Debut
Recording: Good

Talk about unexpected. Here's an album that suggests — no kidding — an adrenaline-stoked Dire Straits playing a heretofore unimaginable pop-rock/metal/country hybrid. The songs are rife with quirky lyrics and even quirkier chord changes, and yet they're still instantly accessible, even hummable. The work of a highly regarded New York City band — Living Color's Vernon Reid has called front-man Jonathan Gregg his favorite guitarist — that's unaccountably without a major-label record deal,

"Blue on Blonde" is not just terrific, it's resolutely unique. You've never heard, really, anything quite like its mix of emotionally acute word play, unconventional melodic structures, and neotraditionalist-on-acid guitar textures.

True, Gregg's singing is vaguely reminiscent of John Hiatt, there's a hint of Richard Thomson or Tom Verlaine in his guitar playing both in tone and in the sense that every solo serves the song above all, and he's obviously listened to a lot of Elvis Costello records (the dominant lyrical stance here being Bruised Romantic Ironist). But since it all adds up to something quite minty fresh, as they used to say in the mouthwash ads, I'm at a loss how to describe "blue on Blonde" beyond saying that it rocks like mad and features songs that instantly echo in your brain like classics yo've heard for the last twenty years. I know that's vague, but trust me on this one, folks. I can't recommend it highly enough.


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