If you are a Jakob Dylan fan, either from The Wallflowers period through his solo work, "Women and Country" will not disappoint. Dylan's solo debut "Seeing things" was a largely stripped acoustic affair produced by Rick Rubin. Now Dylan has enlisted the help of T Bone Burnett, famed for his work with Alison Krauss and Robert Plant, and the sound is more in line with rootsy folk and a touch of blues.
Neko Case lends Dylan herself as backing vocalist, and the sound and the mix is almost perfect. Especially on first single "Everybody's Hurting," which is a sweeping country song with lovely harmonies. My only gripe would be that the sound that T-Bone has cultivated, when used here, doesn't necessarily fit all of Dylan's songs or his style. All and all, "Women and Country" is a solid sophomore album that could have used less production.
With drunken charm and incessant jangle, "Hippies" may be Harlem's slop-pop consummation. This trio from Austin, TX has been gaining notoriety lately, and this blend lo-fi punk with 60s rock is wonderful. It's rock that is simple and straight to the point, which sometimes isn't the case in a lot of Indie rock.
It's only that it overstays its welcome by just a few minutes. "Hippies" is indisputably a record based in the past. It acts as the cliffnotes for entire musical eras – blues, rockabilly, surf-pop, punk, grunge and garage rock are all revisited here. Though it's easy to see that witnessing the evolution of rock music take place on this lo-fi sleeper of a record is a little too much.
This is Sade after nearly 30 years of making music on their terms. That's the key - how many artists in today's music scene can tell their label, "You'll get the music when I'm good and ready to give it to you." It's been some ten years since the last album, "Lovers Rock", and Sade returns looking and sounding as though all those years never went by with "Soldier of Love."
The album is impeccably produced, and showcases the band experimenting in sounds that aren't typical for them, yet it comes off almost effortless. Sade has come along way in her song writing abilities and it shows this new release. Her voice is still as exotic and sexy as ever, and the songs are slow with a story behind each of them. "Soldier Of Love" is already a strong contender for album of the year.
There are now TWO groups called "Sweet", each featuring one of the original group's two surviving members. In England "Andy Scott's Sweet" featuring lead guitarist/vocalist/main songwriter Scott has been established since the mid-1980's, and they perform in England and Europe. The "Sweet" heard on this live concert CD is a very recently established group based in Los Angeles, and featuring bassist/vocalist Steve Priest. He brought together some talented performers, and as a result, all the expected hits are here. An excellent live album, including one new song, this is clearly a fresh wind reviving the once so successful songs of Sweet.
Pieta Brown is a striking poet-songwriter with a haunting voice and an unmistakable style. After many releases and little of the widespread acclaim that she deserves, "One And All" gathers up all the promise of Brown's earlier works with a restrained but assured clarity of artistic vision. The dozen songs of "One and All" bridge the listener to the singer in an extraordinary way.
At the production helm for the first time, Pieta has created a record with the touch of a veteran. The first two songs in particular feel like she's finding a unique voice. The overall sound and the rhythm of this album is more relaxed than anything prior. Her compelling vocals have a hauntingly powerful quality that many of today's indie-rockers try to emulate, but for Pieta it's natural. It's a brilliant addition to this artist's catalog and I recommend it to all.
Mike Farris isn't the kind of person you're likely to find giving the altar call at a youth rally. He's recovering from chemical and alcohol dependency, clean two years, trying to get through each new day still intact. A traveling tent-revival of a record, "Shout! Live" is a soul movement. From songs that identify with struggle and the ongoing search for transcendence to songs that are turn-of-the-century New Orleans Gospel, Mike Faris transforms favorites into sanctified blues shuffles punctuated with bright, celebratory bursts of horns and slide guitar.
Julie Roberts returns with her sophomore effort, "Men And Mascara" with even greater material. Each song is oozing with emotion and Roberts delivers consistently. Her vocals have, in fact, grown since her debut. Her voice has range and power and she treats the material on this album with respect. While exhibiting a little more production value than the first album, she remains under the gloss of most of today's country albums.
There are moments of sublime beauty. There are songs on this record that will give a certain kind of listener the chills... songs that make me wonder where this girl came from, and how on earth does she evoke so much passion, authenticity, and misery from her smokey, bluesy voice. Julie has firmly cemented herself in a handful of country performers to remain true to the essence of country music.
Not just another of artist in the inexhaustible pool of great Canadian singer songwriters, Trevor Alguire returns with the excellent "Thirty Year Run." Flexing the best of his lyrical muscles, his latest album is more mature and refined than his previous efforts. An excellent album from a consistent artist.
R 'n B ain't new in the world of Pretty Toney. He began spitting magic over several, unforgettable R-and-B influenced tracks years ago. This is Ghostface's 9th solo album and he has been a part of probably over 20 albums (including being an intregal member of Hip-Hop powerhouse Wu Tang Clan) so the man is a hip-hop vet.
Nobody from the Wu-Tang Dynasty can pull off R-and-B-style hip-hop better than Ghostface. He's been doing emotional joints from the beginning, and this latest set of tracks are catchy, deep, rich, and honest at the same time. But if you thought Ghost was going soft by making an R & B themed album, you were wrong. On "Stapleton Sex" he gets as raunchy as ever. In addition, there are a couple of setbacks on the album, including the club ready "She's A Killah," which is the musical equivalent to fingernails on a chalkboard. Ghost is still as real as it gets, though, adding a touch of sophistication to underground indie hip hop.
The soundtrack music from the movie Baghdad Texas combines melancholy and southern guitar sounds with the eclectic World Music Fusion sound. The Flaming Geckos gather symbiosis of Latin, Americana and the Middle East while the drum, bass, guitar and Dobro give color to the creative genius of Booka Michel.
The songs are excellent and come across as very honest. It is so refreshing to hear music of such a varied landscape, all very emotive in the best kind of way. Love, beauty, tragedy and passion, which humans have an incapacity to communicate without the helping hand of music.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Mark Knopfler is more interested in satisfying himself than any audience, but when he played "The Sultan's of Swing" with Dire Straits and you don't get a multiple orgasm when you listen, you need help.
The world can now meet again one of the greatest singer-songwriters of our time. Throughout her 30 year career, Rickie Lee Jones has always been absolutely fearless, always unafraid to try something new. A consummate poet and musician, simplicity is beautiful, and she is deceptively simple.
For the most part the songs on "Balm in Gilead" are instantly accessible, which is unusual from her work of the last decade, but that doesn't mean it's no less interesting. Jones' vocals are crisper, cleaner and more focused than they've been in ages. With a more of an Appalachian feel, tracks like "Remember Me" are one of her finest vocals I've heard yet. Always with meticulously crafted song writing, she has been an eclectic musician and continues that expectation here. "Balm in Gilead" is a definite nod to her past, but I can't see her staying there for long.
EDITOR'S NOTE: In 1979, Jones released her first album on Warner Bros Records. She wasn't going to let the press see her play down in Greenwich Village in New York City. I threatened her press agent that I would commit suicide if I wasn't let in. The result: front-row seats. She'll always be a beret-wearing, boho-pop singer that looks and sounds like she just walked out of a Jack Kerouac novel. They'd still make a great team.
John Anderson is back to square one, teaming once again with James Stroud with the release of "Bigger Hands." These 12 cuts bring out Anderson's patented southern drawl which shows no sign of wear or tear. His crooning with a next door jocularity is still as charming as ever, and you can tell Anderson indulges in his heartbreak with a beer in his hands. Some of these songs would even fit into today's country music stations, but with more respect to what "Country Music" is... good ole' heartfelt music.
EDITOR'S NOTE: He burst onto the scene in the late 70's as one of the first in a new breed of singers known as "new traditionalists." They were dedicated to playing country the way Hank, Merle, and Lefty did, and to keeping the tradition of real country alive. I've never heard a sweeter voice in my life.
Son de Madera is a group that together are one of the leading voices of traditional Mexican music and dance from the country's coastal region. "Son de Mi Tierra" ("They are from my land") burgeons with creativity and reverence for both the old and the new. This string driven music is brimming with fresh interpretations of popular regional Mexican tunes. With their focus on rural struggles and issues of the border, these musicians emote real feelings that floats along in the music.
What is about age that softens things for so many of us? This may not be the Carly fans have come to expect and love. Carly and her son, Ben, took a good number of her greatest songs and put a whirlwind of altered arrangements on them. Some of these reworks translate, because Carly has distinguished herself from her contemporaries and the motley crew of sleazy songstresses of today.
Her vocals are sincere, moving and heartfelt. Carly Simon's brilliance lies in her ability to evoke contradictory emotions in a deceptively simple, conversational manner. While some of the rearrangements are surprising, I might like some of the original recordings more than these new takes ("It Happens Every Day" comes to mind). And, unfortunately, the album flawed by a couple of really honkey, stupid arrangements that stick out like sore thumbs and cast a negative influence on the entire album.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I fell in love with Carly many moons ago as she was taking her kid home from a gymnastics class and I was bringing my daughter to the next class at Central Park West in New York City. Vulnerable vocals share romantic intimacies, childlike wonders and bold observation. Her "Never Been Gone" album is as forthright, passionate and wonderfully outspoken as ever.
The album name says it all. Back again to the music world is Chuck Mosley, who was vocalist for hard alt rock pioneers Faith No More. First bridging hard rock with rap back in the early nineties, Chuck returns to recreate that sound... but tailored towards the radio appetite of 1998. This album sounds like it could have been released side by side with Limp Bizkit's "Three Dolla Bill Ya'll," in the hey day of rap-rock, complete with Johnathon Davis guesting on vocals. While over a decade too late to be commercially viable, Chuck does bring some decent songs, and "Will Rap Over Hard Rock For Food" will not disappoint.
Puracane has cemented themselves as a cornerstone of Trip-Hop music. They gained notoriety in 2000 with "Things You Should Leave Alone" and were favorably compared to such bands as Radiohead, Sneaker Pimps, Björk and Lamb. This new effort from the English duo could delight those Portishead fans disappointed by the experiments on their "Third". Ali Rogers unravels her yarns of life and loss over lush tracks supported by Juan Masotta's understated musical virtuosity. The downtempo sound flows with electronic beats together conglomerated with string and percussion instruments. The songs are often mellow yet electronically complicated and hypnotizing with their loops and beats.
The 2007 breakout "Hope For Men" made a big noise, and their follow-up, "King Of Jeans"—the band's second on SubPop Records—proves to be just as wonderfully nasty as the first. Slathered in dissonance, misanthropy, and every manner of glandular discharge, Pissed Jeans play wrecked and ravaged punk that proves an ideal antidote to the overabundance of polite indie rock. "King Of Jeans" is a trip through every man's neurosis, a soundtrack to hair loss and weight gain with the nonchalant smuttiness of a deep-tissue massage is dramatically reenacted. Lyrically focused on the mundane and the ordinary, "King Of Jeans" is more energetic, more focused on bludgeoning the listener into submission with their slowed down take on hardcore. When it's all over, there's a distinct aftertaste of dirt-cheap in your mouth.
"Experimental" is a tired and meaningless adjective thrown at many artists. However, some groups rightly warrant the use of such a description and Liars are one of those acts. Nine years on from their first release they seem to have got lost on a plane somewhere between the New York dance-punk bracket and the art punk genre.
One of the best things about "Sisterworld" is the tension. It's in nearly every song, whether the band is pounding out some bombastic riffs or creating textured sounds in the quieter moments. It is dark, but than again so was "OK Computer" when it came out. It makes you think and realize that you are listening to an amazingly moving and powerful band!
EDITOR'S NOTE: Reba is one of the great, if not the greatest, women of country music, who has sold millions of albums. Her lyrics always come from the heart, and she has created another great Reba album for old fans as well as new ones.
"Free Your Mind" is Too Slim and the Taildraggers' 10th studio album since 1988. Tim Langford's imaginative guitar playing and distinctive tones on electric guitar, slide, and acoustic stake his claim as a master guitarist currently rising with recognition. He has got raggedy edges but they're perfectly appropriate, part and parcel of the woof and warp of the entire package. Good old fashioned americana rock & roll is hard to find these days. "Free Your Mind' is eleven original songs that are a slice of American roots music, with influences from Blues, Americana and Rock. Especially the blues - down-and-gritty hard blues that sticks to your bones and doesn't let go.
EDITOR'S NOTE: His political wordplay anticipated rap. As a novelist, poet, and pianist, Scott-Heron achieved an incredible synthesis of laid-back soul music long -- with jazz-fusion, embellishment borrowed from Bitches-Brew - period.
Karen O and The Kids "Where the Wild Things Are: Music from the Motion Picture Soundtrack," DGC/Interscope/UMG
This soundtrack is just beautiful. A real soundtrack to the wild abandon that only hits you at certain ages in your youth. The songs capture the vibrant enthusiasm, youthful energy, and childlike questioning that is at the heart and the tone and mood of the movie. It makes me feel like jumping on a trampoline and making a fort.
In 2007, Canadian artist Basia Bulat released her debut album "Oh, My Darling" to warm acclaim. Her smoky, almost ethereal, vocals weave between simple acoustic folk jaunts and full-band arrangements. Sophomore effort "Heart of My Own" has Bulat shedding some of the acoustic-folk sensibilities that permeated her first record.
The songs feel like a natural transition, effectively maturing her sound whilst still retaining everything. "Heart of my Own" is fresh and artistic, as opposed to being commercial. This album is easy on the ears, and evokes many emotions within the listener, and gives much hope to the success of this talented young songstress.