MUSIC REVIEWS: The String Cheese Incident

One Step Closer SCI Fidelity
Music ••• Sound ••••
With One Step Closer, the String Cheese Incident continues in the direction of 2003's Untying the Not, shunning the pickin' and grinnin' that so invigorates the band's live show and focusing instead on straightforward songcraft. Each member contributes two or more tunes - indeed, an insightful half-hour bonus DVD emphasizes SCI's ultra-democratic nature and its dependence on a producer to make decisions (here, the opinionated Malcolm Burn). Traditional fare outweighs the innovative, but lyrical assists from Jim Lauderdale, Robert Hunter, and John Barlow up the ante, and some of these tracks sound like they could be fine new offerings from the Band or John Hiatt. Still, the playing is sadly unembellished, which denies the band's true strength: an engaging improvisational spark that was at least partly captured on the four previous studio albums.