Album Review

The Nels Cline Singers, 'Initiate'

April 19, 2010

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It’s amusing to think that a generation of fans now knows Nels Cline as the lead guitarist in Wilco. Cline was making records long before Jeff Tweedy assembled the alt-rock band and its predecessor, Uncle Tupelo. Cline has performed and recorded in many contexts — some thoughtful and quiet, others loud and abrasive. On his new two-disc set, “Initiate,’’ he puts it all on display, from the somber ballad “You Noticed’’ to the hard-rocking “Red Line to Greenland’’ to the noisy anti-tune “Scissor/Saw.’’ The Nels Cline Singers, of course, do not include a singer; the trio features bassist Devin Hoff and drummer Scott Amendola (plus a few guests). On “Floored,’’ they do their best to re-create the sound of Miles Davis’s groups from the early 1970s, with Hoff and Amendola churning out some high-speed rock-funk while Clines thrashes and shreds; the number would blend in well on “The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions.’’ If that isn’t enough, the second disc of “Initiate’’ is a concert recording — the Singers’ first — and here the group lays all inhibition at the door, making visceral, spontaneous music without boundaries — a track like “Raze’’ reminds us how violent the guitar can be in the wrong (or right) hands. (Out now) STEVE GREENLEE

ESSENTIAL “Floored’’