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(Self-released, CD)

Burlington's psychedelic vagabonds Mickey Western bleed sour, Americana blood. Fronted by a charismatically unhinged fellow of the same name -- or nom de band -- the group has become a staple of Burlington's Radio Bean scene. Lately, they've brought their shambhalic sound to other Green Mountain venues. It remains to be seen, however, if wider audiences will be drawn into their cult.

The album I received came wrapped in a cute paper sleeve replete with tiny, handdrawn horses. Unfortunately, it contained no track listings. Not that it matters much -- each tune has a tendency to drift hazily into the next.

Western, a.k.a. Mark Pekar, is a unique musician, to say the least. Although his vocal range is limited, he makes up for in spirit what he lacks in technique. Like Bob Dylan, he aspires to the poetic. However, the epic length of his tunes makes it difficult to sustain interest in his prose. No strong writer ever suffered from a bit of strategic editing.

The band Pekar has assembled is robust, if ragged. Bass, keys, acoustic guitar and percussion form the backbone of the Mickey Western sound. It seems as though the players are following their leader for clues as to where the songs are heading. Often, sounds like he's not sure.

With songs reaching the 10-minute mark, Mickey Western's creations will try the patience of those accustomed to concise alt-country. But economy is not Pekar's trip; he believes the path to musical wisdom is excess. This could be inspiring or annoying, depending on your taste. I find it to be a bit of both.

While Pekar and co. howl esoteric love songs at the frozen New England moon, other local groups are busy refining their sound. To truly capitalize on their wild-eyed music, Mickey Western might want to employ a bit more focus and discipline.

Ultimately, Mickey Western's graveyard shuffle is in a class of its own. In small doses, Pekar's quixotic rambling is invigorating. Of course, the same could be said for Charles Manson. Still, Burlington's musical community is a richer place for its eccentrics, and Mickey Western are most certainly that.


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