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Album Review

Ethan Daniel Davidson still has the unapologetic political beliefs that have been his trademark since his early days as a solo folksinger on a non-stop barnstorming tour of the U.S., but the sardonically titled Free the Ethan Daniel Davidson 5 finds the singer/songwriter settling comfortably into his new position as the leader of a capable and varied rock band. Big swatches of Free the Ethan Daniel Davidson 5 sound a bit Wilco-inspired (most notably the epic opener, "Conquered Beneath a Box-Car Moon"), but the organ-driven rocker awkwardly titled "Woman/Ladder = You'll Get What You Deserve" has a hint of Buffalo Springfield-era Neil Young in Davidson's deliciously whiny vocal melody and the muscular harmonies on the chorus, and "I Need You Like a House on Fire" has the woozy, languid feel of Bob Dylan's collaborations with the Band. Elsewhere, Davidson's familiar style is more obvious, like the quirky postmodern blues "Situationist (Non) National Commercial" and the gleeful updating of John Prine's "Your Flag Decal Won't Get You into Heaven Anymore." The last is a thoughtful tribute to one of Davidson's obvious inspirations, but for the most part, this is an album that looks to Davidson's future instead of his past.

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