Clint Black

Clint doesn't have the unthreatening Pillsbury Doughboy appeal of Garth Brooks or the resonant voice of such other young country lions as Randy Travis or Davis Daniel. He certainly can't compete with Lyle Lovett in the quirkiness department. But he (or maybe coproducer James Stroud) does have an ear for trenchant country songs.

On his third album, Black cowrote (with Hayden Nicholas) "We Tell Ourselves," a pointed, almost satirical comment on the self-deceptions and rationalizations endemic to love: "We tell ourselves that what we found is what we meant to find/ That's what we tell ourselves/ You won't believe the things/ A heart could tell a mind." Black collaborated with Jerry Williams and David Bellamy on the informatively resigned "A Woman Has Her Way": "A man has his will but a woman has her way."

The album's 10 tracks include seven other Black—Nicholas tunes and one by Black, Nicholas and Frankie Miller. All have a vaguely bittersweet, melancholy tinge. It's certainly neither a goody-two-boots romance fest nor a good ol' boy honky-tonk hangout. It is a nicely crafted, intelligent country package that bears up to repeated listening. (RCA)

Confederate Railroad

At their worst, as in "Trashy Women," this sextet from Atlanta makes you feel as if you'd been trapped in a room full of Hank Williams Jr. imitators: "Yeah, and I like my women just a little on the trashy side/ When they wear their clothes too tight and their hair is dyed."

Otherwise lead singer Danny Shirley and mates are a musical, literate and appropriately vigorous addition to the Alabama-Exile-Shenandoah-Sawyer Brown-Kentucky Headhunters-Diamond Rio sweepstakes, performing the country equivalent of chamber music—back-of-the-truck music.

They even show a touch of that rare Nashville quality, a sense of humor, in their hit, "She Took It Like a Man": "She threw a fit, then threw the phone halfway down the hall/ She said, 'I'll be down at the bar'/ Then I heard the front door slam/ I guess all in all, she took it like a man." (Atlantic)

Faith No More

It isn't often that a group's greatest asset is also its undoing. But that's the case with this incorrigible rock quintet from San Francisco, which had a slow-building, left-field Top 10 hit with "Epic" in 1990. FNM wields daring, unbridled energy, impressive creativity and, rare for rock, a healthy sense of the absurd. But they have no discipline or discretion, so their songs end up effusively self-indulgent.

This tendency is most evident on their fourth album, which blazes a bumpy path between brilliance and bombast. Terrific tracks like the obdurate "Caffeine" or the lavishly arranged "Everything's Ruined" can be followed by a stinker like the messy metal lampoon of "Jizzlobber."

Mike Patton is the perfect singer for such a schizophrenic band. His voice can go from stirringly muscular to utterly scabrous. The scary thing is that Faith No More is Patton's more commercial outlet. When he feels really screwy, he records with his other band, the truly bizarre Mr. Bungle.

You have to love a band that ends its album with an instrumental cover of the theme from Midnight Cowboy, crashing together cheesy lounge music and overblown '70s-style rock. At least FNM leaves 'em laughing. (Slash/Reprise)

Jimmy Scott

His hard luck started at 13 when his mother, a church pianist, was killed in a car crash and continued even after he gained attention as a riveting singer with Lionel Hampton in 1948: He was never paid for the albums he cut in the '50s for Roost, and a 1962 LP he made at Ray Charles's behest (with Ray on piano) was withdrawn. Now the Cleveland native is 67 and back, thanks to help from friends such as actor Joe Pesci. Scott's singing is mournful, piercing, haunting, original—his ethereal voice can sound almost womanly at times. Filled with classic ballads, strings and first-rate jazz accompaniment, All the Way is as strange and compelling as a rainbow at twilight. (Sire/Blue Horizon)

  • Contributors:
  • Ralph Novak,
  • David Hiltbrand,
  • Eric Levin.