Local boy Charley Dush has never been shy about his Beatles/Byrds/Badfinger/Kinks influences and on Highwood Hills, his second album proper, he continues in the pop-a-riffic, hook-heavy vein he began following on his self-titled 2001 debut. Kicking off with the grim, acoustic-driven tale "Veil Of Plastic Tears (Version 1)," though, Highwood Hills immediately sets itself apart from it's predecessor as Charley explores some of the darker corners of his soul. With able assistance from longtime pal/guitarist Dan Vorderbruggen, vocalist Brian McGuire and beat-perfect skinman Noah Levy (The Honeydogs), Dush showcases both the lyric- and music-writing growth he's experienced over the past few years. "No One To Blame" is an eerie, piano-laden dirge that recalls both the pop sensibilities of Brian Wilson and the damaged, melancholy lyrical bent of Syd Barrett or Eliot Smith. "Out Of The Blue" finds this loose collective of kindred musical spirits picking up the pace; impossibly catchy, driving lead guitar work and cracking snare effortlessly bolster Dush's urgent, careening vocals. "Love You Tonight," the strongest track on the album, finds him dissecting an ailing relationship over a tasty country-rock groove and to-die-for backing vocals. With his innate knack for penning infectious, memorable power-pop, a stunning command of both six- and twelve-string guitar, and friends like the ones backing him here, Highwood Hills should be the album that makes local critics and fans of honest, from-the-heart rock 'n' roll sit up and take notice of this talented young artist. But frankly, from the tone and depth of his two releases, I don't think it will matter to Dush one way or the other-he's doing what he loves and it shines through. Great local music from a great local musician. PULSE of the TWIN CITIES/Tom Hallett CHARLEY DUSH- HIGHWOOD HILLS- SELF-RELEASED- St. Paul, MN guy Dush had a self-released debut form a few years back (2001 actually) that was a nice batch of pop tuner with a strong Beatles influence and on HIGHWOOD HILLS, his 2nd release, he ups the songwriting ante and has put together 10 songs that should be getting some labels attention (at least the smart ones). "Veil of Plastic Tears" (version 1) opens the record with strummy acoustic guitar and some downbeat lyrics while "Out of the Blue" sounds like it could have been on one of Badfinger's! Early records (one of Dush's faves, I assume). "Love You Tonight" has a canyon rock groove and is yet another strong tune on a record full of them. Dush isn't reinventing the wheel but merely adding to it's long and storied history and honestly, you can't ask for much more than that. DAGGER 'I like the simple things in life' - so Charley sings on 'Simple Things.' He cites his references in his press release that are straightforward, recognizable and applicable. If you synthesise The Beatle, Byrds, Kinks and Tom Petty, chances are it would sound just like this. Mellifluous melodies, lovely 6 and 12 string guitars constantly turning out pop songs and with 10 songs in just under 27 minutes you can tell that you're in for something that is unpretentious and straightforward in it's ambition. In this Dush succeeds - he offers nothing new and doesn't pretend to. What he does offer are well-constructed songs written under the influence of the artists mentioned, just that nothing more. Succinct and to the point in it's ambition and execution, this sort of thing should be encouraged. He straddles the line between dull re-tread and exciting pop and depending on how you view Tom Petty: this could be one for you. Americana-UK.com Highwood Hills - by Charley Dush. Charley's latest disc is more acoustic-oriented than his earlier disc, but strong Rickenbacker riffs still resonate on songs like 'Veil of Plastic Tears' and 'Simple Things.' Another exceptional effort! Fufkin.com/Eric Sorensen.