Usually albums that claim to be about 'regular life' aren't. Not my regular life, anyway. Whose existence is really made up of deep epiphanies and long chains of tragically failed relationships? There are bills to pay and family to see, chores to do and a whole world of fairly steady relationships to enjoy. Alex Peterson obviously makes his home in the same fiberboard housing as the rest of us unglamorous souls, and he finds plenty of adventure there. His double album Mexican Dog is full of the low drama and fine souls that can be met in any of the slower paths through life. Peterson let's us know right away what sort of performer we're dealing with. 'Mexican Dog' is cheerfully self-deprecating, embracing a life free of ambition and effort, but generous in it's friendships. Lazy, drawling vocals sprawling along a sly, slinking tune, 'Mexican Dog' summons up dead hot summer air and cold beers. 'You and Me and Ben and Jerry' is -- finally -- a love song for daily life. While not belittling commitment or the glories of romance, the song admits that sometimes, one person cannot provide enough comfort. Sometimes, you need butterfat. He's aware of the compromises and moral pitfalls of the real world, which come not in devil deals and make-or-break moments, but the constant lure of 'Bigger' buffets. The lust for power, however petty, that let's someone declare 'I've Got the Conch' shows up in all it's pathetic insignificance. There's true drama in a 'STIC (small town inferiority complex),' as a David-sized football team fights against the Goliath of the city. Peterson isn't afraid to approach the more frightening and sober aspects of life, either, from the isolation of modern life to the fears of aging to concerns about the afterlife. But Peterson knows just how to soften the edges, finding the humor that makes even a hard life livable. Peterson does break away from the dry humor in 'Drop 'Em High' and 'Run Raramuri.' 'Run Raramuri' is a tribute to the desperately pressed native tribe of Mexico, facing a new forced removal. The song's history is true and sad, made more painful by the knowledge that this tune is about as much media attention as the story will get. 'Drop 'Em High' simply chronicles a conversation between friends in the aftermath of September 11. Occupying that stunned bubble between occurrence and acceptance, 'Drop 'Em High' works over the raw emotions of that night without the ease of platitudes or preaching. The understated brutality of these songs makes me glad Peterson mostly deals with the lighter facets of life. Peterson has found himself a comfortable musical groove, in a rutted road somewhere between Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen. Less interested in showing off his musical chops than just delivering the tale, his guitar lopes along the faster tracks of a patient harmonica. He's not afraid to play around, rapping through 'Cleveland.' He can patter through the aggression of 'I've Got the Conch' or slow cook his way through a 'Hot Tamale.' Secure in his style, he even dares to compose for kazoo, and cares little enough to make it work.
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