By Will Hermes
Updated November 21, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST

Like Paula Frazer, Mark Kozelek fronted a Bay Area band — Red House Painters — that recorded dreamy, reverby Americana for the 4AD label back in the ’90s. This is the debut of his new band, which honestly isn’t too different from Painters: a bit more kick in the step, sure, a little more rooted to the earth, maybe, but still built around Kozelek’s fragile, slightly scuffed tenor, his taste for gleaming guitar architecture, and his exquisite sense of melody. The centerpiece is the 14-minute ”Duk Koo Kim,” our vote for best guitar epic of 2003 (sorry, Mars Volta). COUNTRY ROADS The Kozelek-produced ”Take Me Home: A Tribute to John Denver” (Badman Recording Co.) is more gorgeous than it has any right to be; it just might change your mind about the late pop-folkie.