Vic Chesnutt's About to Choke (Capitol)
Leapfrogging Gen X
Will Gentrifiction Swallow Him Whole?

Vic Chesnutt's music not only spurns Generation X, it downright leapfrogs it. The tentative piano that dances around "Myrtle" evokes nothing so much as a sleepy 4-year-old resting on an upright; the voice itself is ancient, a cross between J. Michael Pollard and Grampa Simpson. The 12 songs that make up About to Choke are diverse enough instrumentally to avoid the strum (strum)monotony of so many singer-songwriters. The distorted guitar of "Ladle" lets you know that Vic's wheelchair is never too far from a wall outlet. Did I mention that he's a quadriplegic?

Drunk, Vic wrecked up his Chevette in Pike County, Georgia, 13 Easter Sundays ago. Physical therapy has since enabled a sort of rudimentary musicianship with the Casio and six-string; emotional therapy's right there in the lyric sheet, "whittled with an exacto knife/plumb right through (my) load bearing wall."

Like his wheelchair-bound compadre, Robert Wyatt, Chesnutt's songs veer from major-key playful ("Why don't we have a little symposium/where everybody takes the floor" from the jaunty "Little Vacation" complete with Yamaha-induced flugelhorn) to minor-key hurt ("You've been sashaying around the picket line/Wearing scarcely any sign/But always vocal in love and strife/and the politics of your all-important life...And I ain't got time for niceties" from the album-closing, "See You Around"). By the way, Bob Mould produced him (turned out the lights at the end of sessions, by all appearances). Michael Stipe discovered him (the aural equivalent of Howard Finster, sort of). And the likes of Live and Soul Asylum are championing him on the alternarock circuit. Here's hoping that Vic Chesnutt doesn't trade up from exacto knife to blowtorch, that the tunes stay elusive, the lyrics impregnable, the injury incurable.

--Dale Simms
Vic Chesnutt Cover
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