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    Long Distance Lovers
    2000, Broken Line Records

J-45 is Southern through and through, and Long Distance Lovers spans a lot of Southern geography within its twelve songs. This band is appropriately named after a highway, since its lyrics focus often upon the road. It opens with a song called “Open Road,” and contains tunes like “Lonesome Highway,” “Last Time Leavin’” and “Last Gas” along the way. Singer James English has one of those nonchalant kinds of voices, which may lull the listener away from catching the points of his lyrics. But there is deep passion within his lazy lungs. “When the road is callin’” he states in “Open Road,” “You cannot stay/ Cause if you do/ You might fade away.” The best song here is called “Stolen Mule,” and concerns itself with Civil War issues. In it, a farmer is confronted by both sides of the battle, and each of these request his help in winning the war on a battlefield in and around his farmland. But the Confederate Army made the fatal mistake of commandeering this farmer’s only mule. “I showed the Union troops a way up Byram’s Ford/ Just beyond the rebel flank/ They had those boys caught in a crossfire/ Like shooting fish in a holding tank/ When the smoke cleared, the bodies lay on the bank

He concludes by noting that “Both sides try to justify their sins./ But you never go and steal a farmer’s mule.” The Civil War brought out both the best and the worst in mankind, but this song points out how a farmer’s first love will always be his farm, war or no war. Other Southern points of interest include a romance ending with its backdrop as Music City, USA in “Nashville Lament,” and “Lone Star,” which describes a man as a lone star, in the Lone Star state. Except for a few songs, like “Lonesome Highway,” that rocks with a Flying Burrito Brothers-like psychedelic buzz, J-45 mainly plays straight country throughout. Long Distance Lovers is proper road music for heartbroken travelers.—Dan MacIntosh

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