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Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros

Joe Strummer was well into his life's second act when a heart attack felled him last December at age 50. After more than a decade of relative silence following the dissolution of the Clash, the iconic singer-guitarist finally came to terms with his past and started looking toward the future in 1999 by forming a new rock 'n' roll outfit, the Mescaleros, that cooked with more Caribbean, African, and South American flavors than even his old globally minded group. Two warmly received albums in, Strummer and band were nearing completion of a third at the time of his passing, leaving Mescaleros Scott Shields and Martin Slattery to tie up the loose ends.

As with most albums released under posthumous circumstances, the temptation surely exists to heap lavish praise upon Streetcore, putting forth the romantic notion that the ten-song set finds Strummer at the absolute top of his game. Here's the honest truth: Streetcore isn't without its flaws (like a so-so reading of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" and the vaguely Madchesterish "All In a Day"), but overall, it's a gratifying listen that often hammers home the sad reality that a gifted zealous songwriter is no more. Some of the best moments occur on the ardent acoustic-folk number "Long Shadow," the world-weary "Burnin' Streets," and the anthemic rhythmically rousing "Coma Girl," in which joyful impromptu chuckles frequently punctuate Strummer's charismatic rasp. And through Streetcore's highs and lows, Strummer's sincerity and passion never wane, which makes it almost impossible to believe it was his heart that ultimately failed him.

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Michael Alan Goldberg

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