Album Review

Wes Cunningham - 12 Ways To Win People Over To Your Way Of Thinking

Wes Cunningham - 12 Ways To Win People Over To Your Way Of Thinking

So you're thinking, "What is there new that could possibly come from yet another Texas singer-songwriter?" Well, what if I told you that this record glides comfortably from tuneful Beatlesque psychedelia to funky urban beats to trumpet solos to Hawaiian-influenced guitar to smooth pop vocals to raps delivered in Spanish? And all in the space of one song! (That tune being "So It Goes".)

Wes Cunningham has come from seemingly out of nowhere (well, Dallas, if that's a distinction) to make what may be the first singer-songwriter record for the new millennium. He's an artist whose populist overtones make me want to call him some strange postmodern mutation of a folk singer. Folk singers don't have to be original; they are allowed (hell, required) to draw from their forefathers and mothers. But Cunningham is drawing from, shall we say, a deeper well. He openly professes his love of Elvis and the Beatles, but moments here recall, for starters, Soul Coughing, Elvis Costello, Lenny Kravitz, Herb Albert, Pavement and Arthur Alexander.

It works because he has a great sense of both music and humor, and because he steers completely clear of novelty at all times. If you're thinking, "sounds like Beck," it doesn't. It's got a real band feel and relatively straightforward story-song lyrics. All twelve of the songs here should in fact win people over to Cunningham's way of thinking.

Which, apparently, is that genres are made to be merged and broken. And that any sounds that are good may (and should) be used together. But one song in particular should win a lot of people over: "Letter To McKay" is a slice of pure pop heaven, one of the more musically linear tunes on the record and maybe the catchiest thing since The La's tune "There She Goes".

Cunningham is young and, for now, focused more on how to say it than on exactly what he wants to say. Although these are very fine songs, there's still plenty of room for him to grow. As he continues to find his voice, he could become flat out dangerous.