From the opening chord jangles and harmonica wails on its newest release, one might get the impression that This Side of Eve is a mere Bob Dylan tribute act. But when Alyssa Creasy's airy, Harriet Wheeler-esque vocals chime in, and mellow pop choruses ensue, it's evident that the band fits much better with the children of Mr. Zimmerman -- for example, on the radio next to The Wallflowers.
The airwaves seem to be especially appropriate for a group such as TSOE, which blends elements of wistful folk-rock, bright alt-pop, and even-keeled alt-country, rife with mandolin-plucking and lapsteel atmospheres. The lyrics are rather forgettably innocuous and G-rated -- about the only hanky-panky going on is "wait by the fence / and I'll meet you tonight" and the only heavy drinking is "looking for redemption in a glass of beer" (perhaps IC Light?), so the whole family can listen.
The best news about this album -- no matter how middle-of-the-road it may seem -- is that the production is top-notch. It's amazing that much of it was reproduced on guitarist John Creasy's Powerbook, and having seen TSOE live, I can attest that it reproduces that sound pristinely onstage as well. The CD's first half is filled with emotional songs such as "Home" and "These Streets Alone," which strike a balance between hopefulness and melancholy, and would do well opening for Jonatha Brooke or The Innocence Mission.
There's even room for an energetic, up-tempo country-rock dance hit, "I'll Wait," of which even the tough Povertyneck crowd of Froggy FM might approve, ripping solo and all. It's only near the end of the CD, with an instrumental snoozer straight out of Echoes and a Sigur Ros-ish closer that sounds like an entirely different band (ethereal goth, anyone?) that TSOE strays from its well-worn formula. Otherwise, I sense great potential for them if they can work hard and long enough to capture that elusive, picky adult-alternative demographic.