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The Autumn Defense | 02.08.07

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prev_autumndefThe Autumn Defense—the side project of Wilco bassist John Stirratt and multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone—do lilting proud.






at Blueberry Hill's Duck Room, St. Louis
Doors 8 p.m., show 9 p.m.
| $10

I try not to overuse the word "lilting" when describing a band's music; it's one of those adjectives that really has to be earned by a certain sweet, heartfelt buoyancy in the way a song is performed. The Autumn Defense—the side project of Wilco bassist John Stirratt and multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone—do lilting proud, however.

On their sophomore CD Circles, such tunes as "The Sun in California" and "The Answer" practically define the term, caressing your ears with breezy, wistful melodies that can't help but ease your daily tension. Stirratt makes it quite clear that there's more than one introspective songwriter in the Wilco camp, and if he lacks Jeff Tweedy's edgy inventiveness, he displays a more openly accessible romantic heart, one capable of writing nostalgic, Bread-like ballads and soft tappers that eschew the mellow blandness David Gates often lapsed into in favor of a pastoral, homespun purity. In other words, these guys grew up on AM pop in the '70s, and their music honors the best things about those years.

Their self-titled third album has just been released, continuing the emphasis on strong melodies and sun-kissed harmonies, but adding more instruments to the mix. "Estate Remains" features a George Martin-style string arrangement; the enticing organ on "Feel You Now" adds a touch of Memphis soul. With the able timekeeping of Greg Wiz and fine 12-string and keyboards by Brad Jones, the Autumn Defense are well-equipped to serve up their subtle pop delights to a growing audience on their current tour. Catch the breeze—and the lilt—for yourself when the quartet performs in St. Louis on February 8. | Kevin Renick

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