various artists:
 aware compilation 8 (aware records)
Last year I would have worn the grooves out of The Aware Compilation #7, that is, if CDs had grooves.  It is an amazing collection of independent and lesser known signed artists that all fit together in the eclectic pop/rock category.  Sadly, I can't say the same thing about their eighth effort.
Compilation #8 lacks the cohesion of #7 and falls prey to another common problem with compilations; the talent is often hit and miss.
Aware has a long history of discovering "the next thing."  Train, Matchbox 20, Vertical Horizon and numerous others were all on an Aware Compilation disc before hitting the big time.
Aware takes a slightly different tack on the current disc by including solo artists that have been with popular bands in the past.  Marty Lloyd of the Freddy Jones Band, Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket and Peter Stuart of Dog's Eye View all contribute excellent tracks.  The only problem is we've heard these guys before.  I buy this compilation to get the scoop on what's new, not on who has left a big name band and gone out on their own.
Thankfully, the Aware folks do come through with a couple of promising newcomers.  John Mayer's contribution of the intelligently written "My Stupid Mouth" and "Not Myself" highlight the disc.  Mayer's Room For Squares will bow this Spring on Aware Records.  I'd say it's a keeper if these two tracks are representin' proper.
Another notable includes Bostonian Howie Day.  His hauntingly cool "Ghost" adds a spooky flavor to the album.  Pet Engine and Riddlin' Kids just do not seem to fit on this CD.  Their space rock and speed-punk are out of sync with the other artists.  The remaining artists, Matt Nathanson, Will Hoge, Adam Masterson, Dispatch and the Jay Quinn Band are all good, but seemingly provide nothing that you can't hear by walking into your favorite live venue in Athens or Austin on a Saturday night.
Overall, this compilation is a disappointment considering the previous collection remains one of my favorite albums.  Keep an eye out for John Mayer and fans of the now defunct Toad the Wet Sprocket might want to look for the new Glen Phillips album.  Aware remains an excellent source for finding popular regional artists that could hit the national scene soon.  Check them out at http://awarestore.com.

Greg Beadles
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