With guidance from Rick Rubin, Wilson's first solo disc "Free Life" returns the singer-songwriter to familiar turf.
The former frontman for Minneapolis’ Semisonic (and before that, the underrated Trip Shakespeare) has been lying low as a performer for the past few years, instead penning songs for Rachel Yamagata, Mike Doughty and the Dixie Chicks (with whom he won a Grammy for “Not Ready to Make Nice”). With guidance from Rick Rubin, Wilson’s first solo disc “Free Life” returns the singer-songwriter to familiar turf – in the studio winding his way around his brand of bittersweet pop melodies.
“Free Life” lays it on too thick at times, crossing the line between inoffensive adult-oriented pop and over-produced schmaltz, but still delivers some thrilling rock hooks. Standouts include the downbeat “Breathless,” the driving “Against History” and his take on the Chicks’ “Easy Silence.” With friends in high places, Wilson was able to round up a stellar supporting cast for the album, including his Semisonic bandmates John Munson and Jacob Slichter, as well as Mason Jennings, Heartbreaker Benmont Tench, Jayhawk Gary Louris and Sheryl Crow.