Album: Stay Awhile (2007)

Artist: The Isam Band

Label: self-released

Where available/price: Lou's Records in Encinitas for $9.99. Online at isamband.com for $12.

Songs: 1) Gypsy Girl 2) You Stole Their Hearts 3) Stay Awhile 4) When You're Close 5) I Wouldn't Mind Knowing 6) Birds Hover 7) Sweet Little Angel of Mine 8) Psychic Hotline 9) Showtime Baby 10) Fell In and Fallen 11) Fourteen Years 12) Louise 13) Whoever Brought You Near

Musicians: Isam Khoury (vocals, guitar), Bill Adams (vocals, harmonica), Paul Anderson (bass, guitar), Michael Singer (keyboard), Dave Santoro (drums, percussion), Peter Sprague (guitar), Tripp Sprague (saxophone, flute), Sara Anderson (vocals), Lauren Widney (vocals)

This CD is divided almost equally into three parts. The first few songs are happy, snappy piano tunes with a sprinkle of honky-tonk electric guitar and a bit of harmonica. I appreciate the piano, and it's played well. This part of the album is rooted in Americana, only the tempo is a bit slower than raucous small-town bar music. The band plays this bit with journeyman skill, but they never get comfortable enough to excel.

Midway through the album, the band switches gears to a combination of blues and lounge, only the tempo is even further restrained. Given that blues and lounge are already slowish and Isam's throttle is set at about 1/3 speed, you can imagine these songs aren't going to get the band onstage at the MTV Teen Attention Deficit Disorder Music Awards.

Delving even deeper into somnolent inspiration, we get to the last few tracks, 10 to 13. These approach lullaby speed, and Isam's voice is gravelly sweet, like your dad reading a bedtime story two days before Christmas. Even for the "soft rock" genre, this CD is a snoozer.

If it weren't for track 11, "Fourteen Years," I'd only recommend this CD as an alternative to warm milk. But, ah, track 11 is an acoustic offering near the brilliance of Crosby, Stills, and Nash. I wish I had an album of songs just like it.

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