No sophomore jinx for Droge, the decidedly ungrunge Seattle folkie. I whose appealing 1994 debut album, Necktie Second, included the offbeat Dumb and Dumber soundtrack hit "If You Don't Love Me (I'll Kill Myself)." His even smarter followup album serves up more classic pop songwriting à la Tom Petty, Neil Young and Gram Parsons, with some '90s-style bounce and bite provided by his new backup band, the Sinners.
Droge ambles down the same byways of fractured romance and bittersweet loneliness as before, but the 11 songs here share a kinder, more hopeful tone, especially the wistful "Out with You" and the jangly rocker "It Doesn't Have to Be That Way." While the Sinners add some pleasing punch, Droge's appeal remains rooted in the charm and intimacy of his own gentle style. (American)