In Brief

This darling of the "No Depression" crowd still sounds plenty depressed on his third release, despite the presence of his "dream" band and a new, scholarly look that belies his old slacker Neil Young persona. Yet the idiosyncratic vocals, often pretentious wordplay and country-folk mutations frequently create beauty and substance, transcending the whining so prevalent in much of the post-Prozac generation.

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Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to four stars (excellent).

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* Excerpts from these albums and other recent releases are available on The Times' World Wide Web site. Point your browser to: http://www.latimes.com/soundclips

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