ON JOHN McEUEN'S debut album, he proves his own worst enemy as he indulges his every musical whim without ever focusing the versatile instrumental skills he so handsomely displays as a member of the Dirt Band.
McEuen has everyone from Jose Feliciano and the Oak Ridge Boys to Tony Rice and Vassar Clements to assist him on "John McEuen," but though their play is predictably accomplished, the music never seems better than light-hearted and eccentric. The first side of the album is progressive country, and McEuen's characterless vocals don't really catch the hick humor of Hank Williams' "Fly Trouble," the irony of Rodney Crowell and Guy Clark's "She's Crazy" or the fire of Buddy Holly's "Blue Days, Black Nights."
It is on the mostly instrumental second side that McEuen and his talented sidekicks create some sparks. But even here, McEuen is so eclectic that the songs never cohere. There's the straight bluegrass of "John Hardy," the Celtic-sounding "Miners Night Out," the Santo and Johnny instrumental "Sleepwalk" and, worse, a pretentious adaptation of the Stephen Vincent Benet poem "The Mountain Whippoorwill."
JOHN McEUEN -- "John McEuen" (Warner Bros. 25266- 1); appearing Friday at the Birchmere.