Ever since 1988′s schizophrenic Whisper Tames the Lion (their second, actually), DNC have been worth watching, if only to see how they might resolve the conflict between loud, impassioned hard rock and soft, subtle country-style songs. For a time it seemed Kevn Kinney had quieted this dissonance with a low-profile solo career that has produced two distinguished efforts to date. Maybe, as with Evan Dando and his punk friends the Lemonheads, the songwriter was outgrowing the band.
Then again, maybe not. Wrapped in the Sky is as coherent an album as DNC have managed, and a comparatively soft-spoken affair. From the opening “Indian Song”, and the sterling lines “I am Indian / I have been travelling .… I climbed the mountain / To find my family / I found them in a glass case / In the Smithsonian”, we are in the sure hands of a mature songwriter. (Or songwriters; compositions are typically credited to the entire band.)
The songs run toward character sketches, conveyed at ballad tempo with careful restraint, the ensemble always poised at the brink of great volume but drawing back from that temptation. This yields the same kind of drive (but none of the shambles) of vintage Crazy Horse. Highlights include the wrong-side-of-the-tracks love song, “Right Side of Town” (who will be first to cover this for a country radio hit?), the lilting “Señorita Louise”, and “Telling Stories”. But good luck finding a single for MTV. (See, they’re learning.)