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Sodajerk frontman releases solo debut

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Swing Set
How to Make a Living Selling Yourself Short
(SELF-RELEASED)

Every once in a while, we get a reminder of that little local country-rock band that could -- and did -- relocate to Atlanta, Ga., in search of greener pastures. The band of course is Sodajerk, and periodically the band's founders, Bucky Goldstein and "Poppa" John Tucker, check in with a new release for the folks at home. For example, Sodajerk 2 came out earlier this year, bolstered with a 'DVE Coffee House appearance and a Pittsburgh release show, despite the fact that the band left town in early 2005.

The subject at hand, though, is the solo debut of Sodajerk's frontman. While in that band he goes by Bucky Goldstein, in real life, this bespectacled alt crooner is Alex Brenner, and his solo project is called Swing Set.

This set of tunes is clearly more of a singer-songwriter effort, with a gentler, gauzier focus than Sodajerk usually indulges, and slick indie-pop production, impressive given that the album was recorded in Brenner's apartment with a laptop ... and fake drums, surprisingly. But for fans of Sodajerk and that band's clearest progenitors, The Old 97s, there's still a hefty helping of lonesome shuffle and hard-luck drama, especially on songs like "Keep 'em' Coming," with its rockabilly guitar touches combined with western-swing chords.

In general, the album is balanced and evocative, with acoustic guitar and harmonica songs balancing out full-band numbers like "My Side of the City." And perhaps it's just that creeping Pittsburgh-centric viewpoint that eventually gets everyone, but it's hard not to read a little hometown love into lyrics like "Come on downtown to the streetlights and bridges / Don't turn around, just look my way / I'm gonna take you off of your hinges / And all the sidewalks will know our names."

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