Jerry Cantrell -- _Boggy Depot_ (Columbia, 1998)

Jerry Cantrell, guitarist for Seattle heroes Alice in Chains, steps out on his solo debut and unleashes an album chock full of no surprises whatsoever to people who have heard the two most recent AiC studio efforts, "Alice in Chains" and "Jar of Flies." Not that "Boggy Depot" is formulaic or dry -- quite the contrary -- but followers of Cantrell are prepared for the diversity and directions of the record, and it all falls in with his ominous axetones and signature melodic sense.

Convincingly demonstrating how much of AiC's musical shape comes from him, "Boggy Depot" jangles and growls with the stark and sludgy feel we'd expect. Lead single "Cut You In" is clearly from the same swamp as Alice in Chains' smashes "Heaven Beside You" and "Over Now," hooky and flowing modern rock. The gentle "Settling Down" and "Satisfy" and the melancholy "Breaks My Back" return to the feel of AiC's hit album "Jar Of Flies." Cantrell shows range on the record, too, with the Soundgarden vibe of "My Song", the poppy "Devil By His Side" and "Between," the nearly-country acoustic and slide-guitar twang of "Hurt A Long Time," and the experimental, vaguely jazzy and still catchy "Cold Piece" (featuring Primus' madman Les Claypool on bass) all settling in among the album's grooves.

Despite many similarities, it's not quite an Alice In Chains album, lacking Layne Staley's mystically incisive vocals (Cantrell is a strong singer, but Staley has one of those magical voices) and having slightly looser performances, more of a sense of sprawl across the album. These minor differences, however, won't disappoint anyone. "Boggy Depot" is catchy, energized, and fashionably dark, and the star Cantrell shines even brighter for it.

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