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MURRAY ATTAWAY (Buy CDs by this artist)
In Thrall (DGC) 1993

Through four Guadalcanal Diaries albums in the 1980s, Georgia singer/guitarist Murray Attaway was an intelligent, slightly bent auteur of New South roots pop, steering an imaginative course in a regional sea of post-punks, R.E.M. clones and recidivist rockers. The group never really caught on, and ended as the decade did; when Attaway resurfaced, it was with In Thrall, a mature solo debut with more mainstream craft and less lyrical eccentricity. Looking at his existence from the other side of some great divide, Attaway ponders "Living in Another Time" and tenses the past in "My Book" ("I have walked between the lines for years..."). Contemplating an old photograph in "Fall So Far," he asks, "Great godamighty, is this really me?" Using top-drawer sessioneers (Steve Nieve, Jim Keltner, the since-deceased Nicky Hopkins, Robbie Blunt, Benmont Tench) and background vocals on one song each by Jackson Browne and Aimee Mann, Attaway and producer/guitarist Tony Berg (Michael Penn, Ted Hawkins) turn his compositions into various stripes of modern pop. Still, the carefully wrought In Thrall comes across a bit more tepid than its title, leaving the conviction of Attaway's observations easier to believe in than his music.

[Ira Robbins]