John Wesley Harding
The Confessions of St. Ace (Mammoth Records)
Owners of the "High Fidelity" soundtrack are sure to be familiar with the third track, nestled between the Kinks and the Velvet Underground, "I'm Wrong about Everything." John Wesley Harding, a throwback to the '70s folk-revival, sang the pop piece. Now, Harding is back with a new album, "The Confessions of St. Ace". Harding, who hails from England, found his way to Nashville, Tenn. for the recording of this album, which accounts for its strong country feel -- a departure from the more traditional folk music he played in the past. Just as Harding's stage name comes from a Bob Dylan album of the same name, Harding takes the same path that Dylan took, turning from more of a folk musician to a pure pop musician. The change was amazingly fluid, as "St. Ace" is a practical lesson in how to make pop music. Aside from "I'm Wrong About Everything", the album is highlighted by such songs as "She's a Piece of Work," which tells the story of a woman that Harding loved. His lyrical work is littered with irony and symbolism, with lines like, "We sit around, then it pours / Me, I'm so addicted to the great indoors / And she want to shine again." Harding makes weather a symbol for her emotions, which takes the music to a new intellectual level. He also produced the lyrics in a booklet that treats the songs like poems -- complete with annotations for all of the songs. "Confessions of St. Ace," which is derived from his real name, Wesley Stace, is a magnificently produced pop album, filled with clever chord changes and the occasional crooning. The Los Angeles Times called Hardimgs 1990 album, "Here Comes the Groom," "the first great rock record of the 1990s," and there is no doubt that "Confessions of St. Ace" is one of the first great pop records of the 2000s.