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Fleming & John

Posted in MusicWorld on August 31, 1999 by

Unlike some of their contemporaries, Fleming & John don't seem the least bit interested in being the voice of their generation.

Avoiding big statements, the duo opts for introspective songs rendered with painterly precision. Their new Universal Records album, The Way We Are, is delectably ambiguous - diverse yet consistent, intelligent yet unassuming, sentimental without stooping to mawkishness. Almost entirely self-produced, arranged and performed, The Way We Are is do-it-yourself pop at its ambitious best.

It's also the work of an increasingly respected musical duo. Alternative Press described Fleming & John's music as "pure heavy gorgeousness," while celebrated singer/songwriter Ben Folds dubbed them, "The Carpenters of the '90s with Led Zeppelin's rhythm section." Singer Fleming McWilliams is more succinct: "Sometimes I describe it as weird pop. We don't like to use the word alternative. But if we did, I'd say we were the alternative to alternative music."

The Fleming & John saga unfolds like a gothic American novel. Missouri-born Fleming is a former "Miss Sweet Corn," while John's youth was spent mastering brass, strings and piano. The duo became inseparable collaborators after meeting at Nashville's Belmont College. A major publishing deal resulted in concerts throughout the Southeast. Their independently produced 1995 debut album, Delusions of Grandeur, was quickly picked up by Universal.

Now, with the release of their intimate sophomore album, Fleming & John make the leap from best-kept-secret to artful cult heroes. "We tried to put different facets of our personalities in," says Fleming. "It's very much us. It's the way we are."