Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, Fri., July 29, 2005
From the Five (New West)
Although best known as a guitar slinger, Stephen Bruton is also a first-class songwriter. Among others, Bonnie Raitt, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and Jimmy Buffett have recorded his songs. While the Saxon Pub mainstay has long demonstrated the ability to master a variety of rootsy styles with wit and grace, the creative juices on From the Five, his fifth solo album, are at low ebb. Bruton seems to be relying on formula, coasting along and hitting all the styles he's at ease with some funky blues, a teary ballad, a touch of soul and country while never producing anything exceptional. Bruton's a little more politically minded on From the Five than he's been in the past (as are so many songwriters these days), but his observations lack bite and imagination. Similarly, "Put Me Out of Your Misery" aspires to clever wordplay, but ends up silly. It's only on the album's sole cover, "Ordinary Man," a roadhouse rocker originally sung by Sam Moore and Junior Walker for the movie Tapeheads, that Bruton sounds buoyant and funky. From the Five begs for more such moments.