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Truth Be Told
by Steve Dollar
Jul 31st, 2003

Stripped of its jam-band context -- locked in the studio that is, rather than roaming the stage -- Blues Traveler has problems getting very far. Frontman John Popper plays a mean harmonica, but he lacks the pretty boy charms (and keening vocal gifts) of a peer like Dave Matthews. He's also too fond of unwieldy lyric schemes that burden what should be free-flowing arrangements (though one of those, "Hook," became the band's big hit). Pitched as a comeback, Truth Be Told is an earnest bid for more concise music-making. Give Popper credit for the effort. Though his girth once prompted comparisons to Elvis, the big guy's voice never has: It's the band's weakest link. But Popper is more limber these days. "Sweet & Broken" embraces coffeehouse angst, while "Thinnest of Air" roils with saucy R&B stylings. And these New York hippies prove surprisingly funky and nimble on "My Blessed Pain," whose groove redeems -- even if the album, finally, will convince only fellow travelers.