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'Lonely Avenue,' Ben Folds and Nick Hornsby 

Narrative stories just don't translate into songs.

click to enlarge Ben Folds and Nick Hornsby
  • Ben Folds and Nick Hornsby

I really couldn’t feel more mixed about an album, a singer and a writer. Lonely Avenue is rooted in a cool concept: singer/piano man Ben Folds takes the words of Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About a Boy) and makes them into songs. Easy enough, right? Well, no. Not at all.

There are times when the difficulty of transforming a narrative — a clump of words with no rhyme or chorus — shows here. The power and humor of Hornby’s writing, sadly, gets lost under Folds’ supervision.

For the most part, the prose-to-song process only seems to produce long, meandering, tough-to-follow songs whose weaknesses are shellacked in glittering keyboards and thick bass lines. Essentially: lots of polished turds here.

But in the confusing thicket, a few songs stick out — the simple, quiet and beautiful “Practical Amanda” especially. And, of course, “Levi Johnston’s Blues,” a hilarious ditty about the dork who knocked up Sarah Palin’s daughter.

DOWNLOAD: “Levi Johnston’s Blues”

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