Issue: #360

ALBUM OF THE WEEK

THE HIGH FIVE!!

  • Holly Yarbrough "Mister Rogers Swings!: Holly Yarbrough sings the Fred Rogers Songbook," VintageDiscs/Infinity
  • The Infamous Stringdusters "Self-Titled," Sugar Hill
  • Oksana Grigorieva "Beautiful Heartache," Icon
  • Poison "Seven Days Live," Armoury/Telgra1/Cherry Red/Eagle Rock
  • Chuck Bernstein "Delta Berinbau Blues," CMB

Iron and Wine "Around the Well DOUBLE CD," Sub Pop

While folk may be alive and kicking for many, the spirit of the dust bowl has been endowed to one: Samuel Beam, better known as Iron and Wine. Soft, lullabye-esq tunes flow freely from Beam's solemn and deep voice, following no diagrams or rule-book.

Around the Well is a rarities and b-sides collection, a staple for any whose legend reaches beyond their hometown bars or living rooms. And, like everything else Iron and Wine has produced in the 7 years of releasing music, the album doesn't disappoint. Two full CD's of rarities, including the infamous "Such Great Heights" cover.

*****Shelton's Single of the Week: "Dearest Forsaken"*********

EDITOR'S NOTE: Will make you happy, and that's what music ought to do.

Chris Pasin "Detour Ahead," H2O

Pasin's brand of jazz is unstructured, but doesn't let the freedom go to his head.Ê Detour Ahead is still completely accessible to non-serious jazz ears, but doesn't park itself in the pitfall of smooth jazz or masterbatory ego-boosters. Pasin's trumpet playing is impressive, but doesn't steal the spotlight, which may add to it's easily digestible appeal.

Willie Nelson "Lost Highway," Lost Highway

Another collection release from another musical genius. Nelson's 50+ years as an active musician has given him the liberties to do basically whatever he desires. And if that "whatever" is to release a collaboration album exclusively from his time on Lost Highway Records, then so be it.

A lot of the tracks are huge numbers, focusing on Nelson's full band and high-level production, but never losing track of whose the real artist. Cameos are across the board: Ray Price, Lee Ann Womack, Shania Twain, Toby Keith, and Elvis CostelloÉthe album is really something else.

******BEST ALBUM OF THE WEEK*********

Shelton's Single of the Week: "Busted"

Bill Champlin "No Place Left to Fall DOUBLE CD," DreamMakers

Frontman of the band Chicago is still composing the same tracks that has been up his sleeves for years, and it works just as well now. All-over the place pop-rock, this time with a super heavy organ presence, has Champlin's 60's prog-rock history take a few moments in the spotlight, but keeps it restrained enough to not lose the marketability that Chicago loved so much.Ê If you were a fan of any of his previous work, No Place Left to Fall is just a continuation of his legacy until now.

Kate Voegele "A Fine Mess," Myspace/Interscope/Universal

A Fine Mess takes Kate Voegele's music to the next step on the pop stairwell. Every track is a self-sustaining anthem, matching it's own emotion with melodies that fulfill every notion of desire that can be brought on by a pop song.

The sterility of the entire package is my only complaint, like her voice that seems just as full under stress with no sense of waiver. It just feels too clean. But even with the all-too-perfect everything about this record, A Fine Mess still pushes the quality of pop music in a direction of respectability.

******ARTIST TO WATCH!!!*******************

Sian Alice Group "Troubled, Shaken Etc.," The Social Registry

Dreamy space rock from a group that has a firm handle on style. Troubled, Shaken Etc. is nothing less than a superior art piece: every track is laid out perfectly for the next, every sound blends the right texture and dynamic to each moment of the record. Yes, it's that good.

Lots of effects, endless soundscapes with momentary crescendos of dual vocals, and a package that is summed up best as "perfected," Troubled, Shaken Etc. is another record that makes the world a better place.

Little Anthony and the Imperials "You'll Never Know," Imperial Plus/BDG/RED

R&B that sounds like it is from a time when the genre meant something. Well, this one does at least. Because of the over the top nature of the tracks (for example, the incessant call and response vocal lines from men with naturally alto voices), the record is over-flowing with camp and fun, both concepts interchangeable while working toward their style that is both emotional and uplifting. Entirely love and heartbreak songs, obviously. I couldn't ask for more from an R&B album.

************LATE BUT GREAT***********

*******Shelton's Single of the Week: "Hurt So Bad"**********

EDITOR'S NOTE: Try to subdue his hormones with common sense - no hope.

Red Stick Ramblers "My Suitcase is Always Packed," Sugar Hill/Welk

Cajun swing? Could you ask for anything better? Yes, if a good half the record is sung in French. My Suitcase is Always Packed plays the genre true, ignoring any impulse of branching out of their niche, making the record more straightforward, and you know how much safer straightforward is. I can't think of another band like this.

Ravage "The End of Tomorrow," Metal Blade

ÊAt one point I would have considered Metal Blade one of the most respectable labels in contemporary metal. But, if they keep releasing cheese ball albums like The End of Tomorrow, they are just going to start being considered the Drive Thru records of heavy metal.

Ravage are somewhere between Poison and DragonForce, lacking the intense tornado of solo's of the later, and missing the melodic values of the former. The album feels like just about any heavy metal band of any time, but with little in the way of any depth.

**************MIGHTY MIGHTY**********************

Better Than Ezra "Plays Paper Empire,"Ê MRI/Megaforce

Indie-pop heart-throbs return to the world with another album. After years of anticipation, Better Than Ezra has come out with Plays Paper Empire, an uplifting approach to their old style, with all of the college-angst that any high school kid can appreciate.

Songs, as always, lack that little bit of flair in pop music that hooks me, but it would be hard to say this isn't enjoyable. Great for longtime fans and new ears.

Spencer Day "Vagabond," Concord

Roy Orbison, eat your heart out. No, not really, but if old Orb' was around today, he'd be at whit's end with a musician biting at his heals for his crown as, well, whatever it is you would crown him with.

Spencer Day takes the vocal approach but backs it all with a bit more jazz and a bit more of a Lou Reed song structure. Oh, this is incredible. Song writing, lyrics, backing melodiesÉthe entire thing is tied tight with every element that makes good music good music.

***********LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL*****************

9mm Solution "The Dream is Dead," Rock Ridge/ADA

9mm Solution takes the concept of metalcore and drops any of the notions of the cop-out style for pure metal. Chugging takes up almost 50% of the record, with the rest equally divided between heavily-effected guitar riffing and an occasional moment of breathing room.

While their aesthetics as a metal band are about 15 years late, The Dream is Dead makes me wish people still thought the Deftones were cool.

Jean Ritchie "Ballads: From Her Appalachian Family Tradition," Smithsonian Folkways

Called the "Mother of Folk", Jean Ritchie is unfortunately a fairly dim name for most today. Her beauty as a songwriter may be ignored, but it'll never be forgotten. At the age of 86, she is still writing and performing music, a feat most of us won't be able to claim, especially at the caliber of Richie.

Ballads showcases her signature style of solo voice, truly one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard, especially with the Appalachian style which is always impeccable. This is the perfect place to start with her lineage.

************POLITICAL ALBUM OF THE WEEK*******************

******Shelton's Single of the Week: "False Sir John"*************

Anderson "It Runs in the Family," U & L/Volkoren

Catchy electro-pop along the lines of what The Postal Service were doing 5 years ago, but with a whole new set of lungs in tow. Mesmerizingly catchy songs make the entire gait of It Runs in the Family feel like a dream sequence, with the infectious melodies playing into the spacey and dreamy electronic beats that backs the record. Nothing at all objectionable.

Kristina Train "Spilt Milk," Blue Note/EMI

Spilt Milk showcases up and comer Kristina Train's vocal abilities as a soul diva. Train's voice is marvelous, with the ability to hit the lower registers that, personally, is what does me in for any female soul vocalist.

Music is straightforward: general pop melodies with slow rhythm and a slight country edge to it. But with the spotlight set straight on at Train, this record is sure to sit well with the whole family.

**************** NEW ALBUM OF THE WEEK**********

Foreign Born "Person to Person," Secretly Canadian

Alt-folk like no other. Think a pop version of Black Heart Procession, or maybe more along the lines of The Coulor Revolt. Maybe even a rival to Conor Oberst's new projects. Who knows.

But either way, this is fantastic. Intricate and heavily layered with textures no one else would have ever dreamed of, Person to Person flows effortless through and through, and gives no signs of filler or half-assed work on the entire record. Absolutely beautiful.

Andrea Wittgens "In The Skyline," Trapdoor Escapade/Burnside

Singer/songwriter Andrea Wittgens takes the more interesting approach to the genre: not just acoustic guitar and singing, or even a minimal band. No, Wittgens sides with creativity: accenting melodies come from voices of every instrument that she would ever need. Electronics, strings, pianoÉit's all here.

Songs are as painless as possible (bordering on childish, as the cover suggests), but still takes all the optional detours to create an entirely new map of her music.

Various Artists "Putumayo Presents Ð Italia," Putumayo

Putumayo is at it again with a compilation of Italian singer/songwriters. Entirely acoustic, these Italian musicians all have a distinct style to them: jazzy, bluesy, and a vocal delivery that is certainly not from the U.S.

I personally didn't know a single name on this before popping it in, but I can honestly say there was not one artist on here I didn't love.

"SO NICE GOTTA DO IT UP TWICE" (created by the original NYC D.J., Jocko, 1955)

EDITOR'S NOTE: He drives around aimlessly - feeling there's no way to be in his kind of hell, no way to extinguish a flame that burns, burns, burns.

David Nail "I'm About To Come Alive," MCA Nashville

Nail brings a fresh new voice to country. Stadium country, albeit, but unlike all the rest of the rock-star wannabe's who have taken country hostage, David Nail's songwriting more than makes up for the pitfalls of other artists of our times.

Heavy on strings, accenting Nail's unwavering voice, songs portray the wills of the story he's telling. The adventurous nature of not-writing-solely-about-love has made I'm About To Come Alive feel like a classic before its time. Country musicians worldwide, take heed! You have heard your strongest competition! Now, if only more musicians could sound like thisÉ

Drop Dead, Gorgeous "The Hot N' Heavy LP," Suretone/Geffen

Obnoxiously stupid metalcore with occasional moments of pure gold. For instance, opening track "Killing a Classic," begins with a bogus, run of the mill metalcore breakdown, with pained repetition of "Are you having trouble sleeping?" which fades into a surprisingly great post-punk breakdown.

After that, the song again goes downhill with pointless and inane pseudo-heavy hardcore that I couldn't care less about, until the next switch in genres. For some, this is perfect. For me, I'd rather just grab Fugazi's 13 Songs.

Rihanna "Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded," Island Def Jam/Universal

Within the category of newer r&b pop stars, Rihanna has my heart. As cheesy as that sounds, I'm serious. Radio-overplay aside, "Umbrella" drives every other single of the time to the ground in every matter of importance with the genre.

Reloaded holds true to the original, with some new production (while certainly not better than an entirely Timbaland-based record, certain on par), and some new cameos (Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z, etc.) and a few new tracks, just to give us (and more importantly, me) something to hold off until the next album.

***************If You Like Music You're Gonna Love This******************

POLITICAL SONG OF THE WEEK

Artist: Jimmy Buffett
Song: "A Lot to Drink About"


Up on the East side of Manhattan,
They're still dancing with the stars.
While over in sub prime city,
It's getting angry in the local bars
Watching the news only gives me the blues
There's too much going wrong.
It takes the likes of me to hit the reboot key
and write a high speed drinking song.

Millionaires losing everything.
Hey, welcome to the other side of life!
There goes the yacht, there goes the Rolls,
But, you get to keep your wife!
And don't forget the automakers
swimming up stream like a trout.
They let the shi* hit the fan
and then they made a plan
We've got a lot to drink about.

It's the price of oil,
the war of the spoils.
Where's your bucket for the big bailout?
Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan,
We've got a lot to drink about.

Now, Madoff made off with all the money.
Now his clients are down to skunk weed.
Repeat after me, it's so easy to see
We're only talking simple greed.
And those Somalian pirates are counting all the gold.
While Bush and Cheney ain't around
and all the good lookers seem to be Czech hookers
from Key West to London town.

It's the price of oil,
the war of the spoils.
Where's your bucket for the big bailout?
Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan,
We've got a lot to drink about.

So pour me some Tennessee whiskey,
pour me a fine Jamaican rum.
That loud mouth soup
gets me kind of looped
Tequila, of course I'll have some!

Now the family devalues
and little children count their net worth
and the truth wherever it's hiding,
can be found on Google Earth.
Citibank's buying jets with our money.
I wanna flog 'em with a buggy whip.
I hope Obama and Joe won't let the volcano blow
and patch the hole in our sinking ship.

It's the price of oil,
the war of the spoils.
Here's your bucket for the big bailout?
Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan,
We've got a lot to drink about.

Recession, Depression, the question good God
CNN keeps bumming me out.
I can't take another doomsday moment.
We got a lot to drink, a lot to think,
a lot to drink about.