Richard Thorne,
Undercover Overachiever
(self-produced, 2000)

I recently reviewed (and panned) Richard Thorne's more recent album, Richard Thorne & the Teasels' Freight Trains & Strange Dreams. In that review, I criticized Thorne's voice as a detracting element of the well-written songs. Conversely, Thorne's voice is possibly the best element of this nice mini-album. With only five tracks, Undercover Overachiever is a pleasant collection of experimental folk songs. By "experimental," I mean the non-traditional melodies and Thorne's nearly-off-key voice. Everything that was wrong with Freight Trains & Strange Dreams is right in Undercover Overachiever.

The intro song, "Honey's Back In Town" begins with Thorne providing a good guitar riff and vocals that climb up and down a shaky scale. Sounds odd? Well, it is. But it works. The second song, "The Cross and the Shield," takes a controlled slower pace that gains intensity as the song progresses. "It All Comes Back To You" has a hint of country flavor provided by a fantastic pedal steel guitar by Bob Hoffnar.

The guitar strumming in "Yesterday's Princess" really holds the song together and provides an adequate framing for Thorne's voice. (It almost gets away from him, but Richard Doll's bass and Tom Eastland's drums don't let him stray too far.) The title song, "Undercover Overachiever," is the worst (or least best) song on the album. The chorus, both the lyrics and the melody, is a bit forced. It's an OK song, but not nearly as good as the others on board.

Undercover Overachiever has an experimental feel about it. Perhaps it is this daring quality that makes this miniature album such a success. I wish there were more songs on this album. Hopefully, Thorne will follow the vein of this mini-album on future albums.

- Rambles
written by C. Nathan Coyle
published 17 May 2003