If you know this Nashville collective mainly for recent albums like Mr. M and OH (Ohio), the most striking thing about the reissue of 2000’s lush Nixon is how different leader Kurt Wagner sounds. Currently a woozy basso crooner, he was a woozy, much-higher crooner back then, with a intriguingly scruffy falsetto suggesting Curtis Mayfield’s degenerate down-home cousin. In any case, Nixon is a fascinating listen that tempers Wagner’s penchant for updating and warping the smooth country-politan sounds of the ’70s with mellow soul influences, all the better to make his sly, tartly dark observations on human nature more appetizing.
Taking its title from the wonderful Wayne White painting of the same name—which is also the cover—Nixon has little or nothing to say about the late, disgraced former president (unless utterly oblique references count), but it does include “The Petrified Florist,” underscoring Wagner’s knack for offbeat wordplay. This two-disc set also includes White Sessions 1998: How I Met Cat Power, a five-song Wagner solo set with its own sleepy charms.