Personnel: Jeffrey Erickson (vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar); Mary Ramsey (vocals, violin, viola); Dennis Drew (vocals, piano, organ, keyboards); Steve Gustafson (vocals, electric bass); David Hone (keyboards, programming); Jerome Augustyniak (drums, percussion).
Audio Mixer: David Hone.
Recording information: AllSound Media, Warren, PA; FM Studios, Jamestown, NY; Robert Lee Scharmann Theater, Jamestown, NY.
Photographers: Don Hill; Ben Jackson ; Lori Savaree; Jon Elder.
Music from the Motion Picture is the first album of new music from 10,000 Maniacs in 14 years and, as perhaps could be expected, a lot has happened over that decade-and-a-half. First of all, founding member Robert Buck died of liver failure in 2000; secondly John Lombardo -- another founding member who also often functioned as the musical partner of Mary Ramsey, who has been the Maniacs' lead singer ever since the 1993 departure of Natalie Merchant -- left in 2002 and didn't rejoin when the group re-formed in 2008. The current lineup comprises Ramsey, keyboardist Dennis Drew, bassist Steve Gustafson, and drummer Jerry Augustyniak, a trio that has been in place since 1983, and guitarist Jeff Erickson, who came on board after Buck's passing, so this is a band with a long history and a comfortable chemistry that's readily apparent on Music from the Motion Picture. Indeed, many casual listeners could spin this 2013 album and be none the wiser of all the lineup shifts (indeed, Ramsey can sometimes sound like Merchant). Much of the album sounds even closer to prime Bush-era Maniacs than 1999's The Earth Pressed Flat: it's clean, gentle, and melodic, mellowed jangle pop that's always sweet, never melancholy. If the album is never exactly compelling, it never tries to be, either: it's comfort music for Gen-X'ers, usually sure-footed (it stumbles only toward the end, when the reggae lilt of "It's a Beautiful Life" is paired with the fussily moody "Fine Line"), and sure to satisfy those who are looking for something that sounds like Blind Man's Zoo with a fresh coat of paint. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine