John McCauley is a workaholic – if you call being a boozy, (formerly) crack-smokin' alt-rock star work. Slotted between side projects, his main crew's latest is a reckoning after 2011's unhinged Divine Providence. Tight songs flash their roots: "Thyme" echoes Screamin' Jay Hawkins' sexy menace; "In Our Time" (with Vanessa Carlton) recalls the battle-hardened duets of Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty. McCauley unspools frank memoir here. "Mr. Sticks" is about his imprisoned dad; the folksy "Big House" gives a junkie friend a dress-down worthy of Skynyrd's "That Smell." If he gets personal, he's not self-indulgent. He's just a bruised craftsman, impressively plying his trade.
From The Archives Issue 1193: October 10, 2013