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The Mike Farley Band

Halfaworldaway
(RTT)

by

Cleveland-based singer-songwriter Mike Farley readily admits that he's going after the same audience that listens to the Counting Crows, Matchbox Twenty, the Goo Goo Dolls, and Third Eye Blind. Those bands might be popular, but they're not the kind of artists who have made a dent with critics. And for plenty of good reason: They all write songs that are so self-consciously sensitive, they quickly wear thin with repeated listens. Farley is at least partly guilty of the same thing. And given that his band sounds primarily like Hootie & the Blowfish, Farley's music doesn't sound particularly original upon first impression.

The Long Island-born Farley made his debut in 1998 with On the Edge of Somewhere and is one of the hardest-working musicians in Cleveland (just this year, he will have played at festivals in Boston, Atlanta, and upstate New York, and he regularly plays locally). Working in his favor is that he writes songs with some bite to them. With his band -- guitarist Jeff Nagel, bassist Jeff Beam, and drummer Joe Rohan -- Farley delves into blues ("When It All Comes Down"), soft rock ("Comes With a Conscience"), and pop ("She's Alone Tonight"). Some of the adult alternative fare here is a little too weepy -- "Far Away" is whiny, and its chug-a-lug guitars never kick into high gear. But Farley, who has a voice that's deep and emotive, sounds downright pissed on "Can't Be Your Man" and "Fight No More," two tracks that successfully serve as bitter kiss-offs to ex-lovers.

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