Vic Chesnutt: At the Cut 

Much like '07's North Star Deserter, Vic Chesnutt's At the Cut finds Athens' grim folkie still soaring beyond the devices of a traditional singer/songwriter. Many of the players who made North Star Deserter so bold and beautiful, including members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and former Fugazi vocalist/guitarist Guy Picciotto, have returned. But whereas North Star crystallized Chesnutt's stark visions into swirls of strings, rhythms and dissonance, here the expansive sound feels natural. "Coward" opens with epic drama, and Picciotto's guitar adds terse immediacy to "Phillip Guston," while "Granny" wilts with somber remembrance. Riding these peaks and valleys is emotionally exhausting, but if you're a fan you already know the kind of pain you're in for. At the Cut doesn't hold North Star's surprises, but it's a stunning companion album. (Constellation Records) 4 stars out of 5

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