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Ken Stringfellow is currently taking a break from The Posies, Big Star, The Minus Five and REM. Itís not for a vacation, or to record demos. Itís so that he can finally tour to promote his excellent solo CD, "Touched" which was recorded almost two years ago and released last year. It seems mostly that the point of "Touched" is to strip down production to a place where Ken is not merely recording an album to chronicle the songs he wrote. Nor is it to sell millions of copies. Mostly, "Touched" is Ken singing and playing to the listener. The effect is more like a conversation than an alienating ramble from topic to topic.

That being said, "Touched" doesnít stray all that far from Kenís contributions to The Posies, and itís no set of badly-produced home recordings. Itís masterfully played from beginning to end, whether itís an acoustic and vocal song or a full band rocking out in a distinctly Seattle melancholy. Current favorite tracks include the beautiful 60ís-tinged (youíll see) "Uniforms", which shifts effortlessly back and forth between a string quartet and perky, jangly guitars and warm wurlitzers. Donít forget the haunting melodies. "One Morning", which seems a bit influenced by working as a member of Big Star and touring recently with The Posies as an acoustic duo. He can get a song across with only an acoustic guitar and his voice, just like some of those classic Big Star tunes. Donít get me wrong. Kenís voice as a songwriter is distinct and truly his own. He tackles touchy topics such as suicide with grace and humanity. "Fireflies" features Kenís voice in a beautiful whisper while big drums bang around and a small orchestra of guitars and keyboards build around him. Particularly not to be missed is the finale, "Hereís to the Future." Iíll leave that for you to review. This was one of the most overlooked albums of 2001, be sure to make it one of your favorites of 2002. And catch Ken on tour if you can.