The Dilettantes,
This Small Town
(Sweet Air, 1999)

This Small Town by the Dilettantes is a pleasant CD to listen to, mixing folk-rock, bluegrass, a little country and a tiny hint of jazz. The CD is appropriately named, since each song, written by lead singer Jennifer Agner, brings to life an individual story of country life.

Jennifer definitely has experience with small-town America, as each song is told from a personal viewpoint. Jennifer not only contributes her powerful voice, but also plays guitar and banjo. She is joined by her husband, Eric Agner, on upright bass and backing vocals. Greg Schlimm showcases his talents on acoustic and electric guitars. Jim Brinks plays drums on two tracks.

If there was ever an icon that evokes images of country decor, it would have to be a "Black Velvet Elvis." This slightly jazzy tune is a great intro to the band's music. "Red Dirt Road" is a peppy, toe-tappin' number with emphasis on the banjo and acoustic guitar. This song brings the small Southern town to mind. I really like "Someone Else Tonight," on which Jennifer and Eric harmonize together very well. The guitar is the strong instrument on this tune, which is about missing the one you love and knowing they are in someone else's arms.

Another excellent song is the title track, on which Jennifer sings about life in "This Small Town" and her desire to break out of the mindset where everyone knows everyone's business and has an opinion about it ... but it is harder to leave the nest than you might think. "Redbone" is a good, sprightly banjo/guitar instrumental. I'm not sure if this was the intention of the Dilettantes, but every time I hear the tune, I imagine a TV commercial showing how much fun it is to drive a certain pick-up truck over dirt roads.

"Sweet Virginia" is another great tune. Jennifer brings you on a sentimental journey about her home state. She disses Atlanta (slightly), which happens to be one of my favorite cities in the U.S., but I understand that there is no place like home. And you just can't help but be dragged into her story -- and it's hard not to sing along. The music to "Ocmulgee" brings a river to mind, although the lyrics point out how the river has been trashed and neglected. The song always transports me to a lazy summer day, floating along with the slow, meandering current. The Dilettantes almost don't need lyrics, as they are experts at telling a tale just with their instruments.

"My Bass Man" is light nightclub dining music with a jazzy flavor to it. "Port Au Prince" is a more tranquil, melodic instrumental that brings nice closure to This Small Town. The Dilettantes have done an excellent job with this CD. In my opinion, it would make a nice addition to most music collections. I, for one, look forward to seeing what Jennifer and her bandmates bring to life in the future.

[ by Wil Owen ]

Buy This Small Town from