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Troubadour trio revive spirit of CSN with immaculate results

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You take three established songwriters, put Martin acoustic guitars in their hands, get them to sing three-part harmonies on each other’s songs and a folk rock supergroup is born. With every other aspect of ’60s musical history revived, ripped off and revered by a generation not even born circa Woodstock, it’s surprising that the legacy of Crosby, Stills & Nash has never really been disinterred.

Until now. The Thorns are Matthew Sweet, Shawn Mullins and Pete Droge. All three have enjoyed modestly successful solo careers but now pool their talents in a manner that can’t really fail. Standouts include the yearning “I Can’t Remember”, the countryish “Think It Over”, “Dragonfly” (which has a real Stephen Stills feel) and the one cover, an uplifting rendering of the Jayhawks’ “Blue”.

Yet there’s more to them than mere acoustic strumming. “Thorns” and “I Set The World On Fire” rock tastefully. “Now I Know” is augmented by sweet strings, and “Such A Shame” is an appealing mid-tempo ballad, although all are stamped with their immaculate harmonies.

In truth, Sweet, Mullins and Droge are not as individually distinctive songwriters as their role models. They lack Stills’ virtuosity, Crosby’s left-field unpredictability or even Nash’s winning simplicity. This makes them more America than CSN, and the songs are not so much “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” as “Horse With No Name”. But, hey. It’s a long time since we heard three-part harmonies as good as this from anyone. Perhaps the singer-songwriter supergroup is an idea whose time has come again. Think up your own dream team. Uncut’s would be Ryan Adams, Josh Rouse and Ed Harcourt.

How about it, guys?


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