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Sawdust Man

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Ben Kweller: Getting Away With Country

Ben Kweller: Getting Away With Country

Sawdust Man

  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Thursday's Pick

  • Song: "Sawdust Man"
  • Artist: Ben Kweller
  • CD: Changing Horses
  • Genre: Country-Rock
Ben Kweller 300

Ben Kweller may not be a full-blooded country boy, but he makes a convincing effort in "Sawdust Man." courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption courtesy of the artist

Ben Kweller was just 16 when he became a momentary media sensation with his band Radish. Since then, he's made a handful of charming power-pop records, each hinting at his country and Americana leanings without fully indulging them. Though he's spent the last decade in New York City, Kweller grew up in Greenville, Tex., and recently moved to Austin, making his full embrace of country and '70s boogie-rock on Changing Horses a nice "We've Moved" card for his fans.

"Sawdust Man" shows the grown-up 27-year-old with tongue (and hayseed) tucked firmly in cheek. The titular Sawdust Man is "the talk of the town" — who, of course, is a better guy than the town folk say. Kweller places his guy at the Greyhound station, where he waits for his girl to get home and daydreams about the things they'll do together.

Even if Kweller isn't a full-blooded country boy at heart, he's got a good ear for the sounds: Pedal steel and Dobro meander across the album, and "Sawdust Man" even tosses in a Leon Russell piano and fake CB radio calls. These are deliberate affectations, sure, but neither the song nor the album come off as hokey or contrived thanks to Kweller's natural charm. His vocals have the right amount of drawl and high-note breaks, which stretch over the song's pauses after each verse. His charm is passed on to the Sawdust Man himself — who, like Kweller, probably gets away with more than he ought to.

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