The Appeal: Georgia's Most Wanted Gucci Mane
1017 Brick Squad /Asylum /Warner Bros.

Author:
Sophia A. Strosberg

The Dirty South rises again in the form of Gucci Mane. This rapper comes with street cred shining on all his mixtapes, which feature solid lyrics and production throughout. He has what it takes to hook you with his rhymes, so just wait until the hook comes in. You'll have it in your head for weeks. However, the big budget and a desire to please everyone seems to get in the way of his recent The Appeal: Georgia's Most Wanted. The songs are not catchy enough to create radio hits, and most of them still don't make it to the realm of intellectual rap. But Gucci is climbing higher, and his flow is setting standards.

However, there are some amazing moments. The beats shine in unusual places: Swizz Beatz makes an entire song out of a clip from Ed Banger Record's electro-grunge duo Justice, for example. The lyrics do pop here and there: Nicki Minaj's appearance marks another rung on her ladder to solo stardom, and the closing track, "Grown Man," provides a passionate Gucci lesson. The Appeal in a nutshell: Sometimes, you just want to think about money and kind of daydream. This is for those times.

Editor's Note: This album introduces us to a hip-hop artist who could single-handedly create more drama than a carful of crips.

Single of the Week: "Little Friend" feat. Bun B

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Be Brave Auditorium
Independent

Author:
SAS

The case for this album gives almost no hint as to what its contents will offer. And you'll have to stretch open for what you'll finally find inside, both lyrically and musically. For the most part, this is an indie, acoustic-folk album. But the vocals are layered and echoed by Spencer Berger, who has a background in opera. The lyrics are descriptive and poke you in your own life: "Sunday, we woke up and you made us coffee. I don't tend to drink it, but everything that touches your hands is becoming the thing that I want or need to be part of the plan." Sure enough, Berger also has a background in screen writing.

The music is just bass and guitar and clapping and mixing and layering as done up by Berger. He sings, "If your girl sings loud she's in love." Well, Berger, if you sing loud, we're in love too. Your voice is round and yet hollow, and entirely wonderful. Lullaby us with your odd skits of songs.

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...Featuring Norah Jones
Blue Note / EMI

Author:
SAS

Who can bring the Foo Fighters, Willie Nelson, Outkast and Gillian Welch together on the same album? Only Ravi Shankar's daughter. Her list of exiting collaborations goes on: Herbie Hancock, Talib Kweli, Dolly Parton, Belle and Sebastian, Ray Charles.... need to hear more? Eighteen tracks thick, ...Featuring can and should be played for all audiences.

All of the artists who recorded with Norah Jones on this album understood the value of her jazz vocals, and now you will too, no matter what kind of music you love. Almost of the songs are on the chill side - not sleepy, mind you, just downtempo. Norah Jones need put no effort into matching her voice to different kinds of music. It just goes. Don't call her "adult contemporary" ever again. Call her "blessed in the here and now."

Editor's Note: From a quiet little secret, passed among friends, a hot pick among the coffee house jazz set, Norah Jones has become a household name, singing with the likes of Willie Nelson, Ray Charles and other remarkable artists.

Single of the Week: "Life Is Better" feat. Q-Tip

BEST ALBUM OF THE WEEK!

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Return of the Drifter: Moralistic Songs and Recitations Accordin' to Mark Brine Mark Brine
Wild Oats

Author:
SAS

Mark Brine has inserted a religious edge to his version of Americana. He sings hobos and bible passages acoustic finger picking. It's a nice strong mix of yodeling, steel guitar, morals and an everyday attitude. This one won't necessarily make you want to stop drinking and running around. Rather, it will make you think twice about "The Paper God" (money) and justice and, well, morality.

Morality is a tricky topic to cover because it can so often make you sound preachy and pushy. Brine does a good job of stating things in a way that will make you identify with the moralistic person, not the evil one. And he is clearly practiced in the paths of Woody Guthrie and company, at least as far as the music and class consciousness goes.

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Too Beautiful to Work The Luyas
Dead Oceans / JagJaguwar / Secretly Canadian

Author:
SAS

The Luyas play scritchy and catchy pretty-rock with regular infusions of the electronic and space age. It's hard not to mention Coco Rosie, but I won't. The Luyas provide something different from Coco Rosie anyway, something more complete, where the tracks do not stand alone; rather they lean and slide into one anotherlike dominos that fall toward the center of a grand design.

Certainly this music will induce for you what the Bryon Gysin Dream Machine, which you built when you were 22, could not. Get ready to plunge into The echoing rhythm is integral to Too Beautiful to Work, and so are the antique rose vocals. But there are also an array of diverse instruments and soundmakers involved in the production of these little journeys. Including a Moodswinger. Yes, a Moodswinger. Look it up.

Editor's Note: They create both a romantic promise and a hint of doom.

ARTIST TO WATCH

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Treme: Music From the HBO Original Series, Season 1 Various Artists
HBOGeffenUMG

Author:
SAS

While an HBO series about the aftermath of Katrina in New Orleans doesn't sound like it could possibly be able to do justice to the situation there, this music is for real. Nineteen brass bands and New Orleans artists have been invited onto this soundtrack, made for the TV series Treme, and all bringing you the feel-good sounds from that partying, hard-time town.

Some songs are instrumental, others have vocals, all are strongly brass-influenced and reflective of the traditional sounds of the area. Really, this could be a sample album instead a soundtrack, for this is the kind of compilation that will turn you on to many bands you, up until now, have only wished you knew of.

Single of the Week: "Time Is On My Side" by Irma Thomas & Allen Toussaint

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If You Want Blood You've Got It AC/DC
Albert /Epic /Sony

Author:
SAS

AC/DC's 1978 live album has been digitally remastered and is now available for your hungry-toothed consumption. Angus and Malcolm Young and Bon Scott leave you with no false conceptions about the hellishness of their rock and roll world, and yet the second you turn this on you will enter a world of drug-induced illusion. It's as raunchy as ever. In fact, they dream constantly about doing beautiful ladies and stabbing one another with jagged guitars.

You will hear the crowds cheering here and there, but often enough the sheer force of guitar and throat grounds them into oblivion. You are the audience. There is that feeling of imperfection, of overcompression, of the kind of playing that is just a bit careless because the recording is live instead of from a studio. Instead, the perfection is in the evil.

Editor's Note: More proof that a band that isn't being born is busy dying.

Single of the Week: "Hell Ain't a Bad Place to Be"

LATE BUT GREAT

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Bossa Nova Around the World Various Artists
Putumayo

Author:
SAS

Do you know what bossa nova is? Do you really know what it feels like? What about when it migrates from Brazil to Paris, to Mexico, to Portugal, to Norway, to Serbia, France, Germany, South Korea? Bossa nova is, at once, charming, romantic, dancable and exotic. You'll hear from 12 artists practicing various aspects of bossa nova.

They bring this warm style of music to some cold places. They bring the bossa nova rhythm to your kitchen, too. Some of the music on the album is absolutely traditional, other music has an drum machine hook or a flute or violin or harmonica. Bossa Nova Around the World is definitely on the soft side. But bossa nova holds up well when done cute, so enjoy this when you are ready to warm your heart up.

Single of the Week: "Didier Sustrac" by Tout Seul

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Asylum Disturbed
Reprise /Warner Bros.

Author:
SAS

With a focus on their usual vibey metal sounds, Disturbed has released another chart-topper. You'll hear the whole rigmarole: full metal guitar with squealing solos here and there, chug-a-chug rhythms, multiple vocal strains with a bit of grunt and a bit of vibrato in each song. The lyrics are about specific topics, and they are rarely true love (bless metal's little iron heart for that streak of nonconformity). From global warming to insanity to good-ol' proverbial infection, there's something for everyone.

More old metal than nu metal these days, Disturbed will satisfy angry kids of all ages. There is changeability throughout Asylum, yet the whole things rides out that shadow-side mood from beginning to end. Disturbed isn't ultra complex or mind-blowing, but they strike a brass hammer in the hearts of hard rockers, so they are here to stay.

Editor's Note: David Draiman gets his croon on, singing for the laughter and singing for the tears, cause with any luck, maybe tomorrow the good lord will take him away.

MIGHTY, MIGHTY!

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Pilot Talk II Curren$y
DD172 / Jets / Universal

Author:
SAS

Rolling in from New Orleans, Curren$y comes to you with some jazzy beats and heightened worlds that manage to break from the 2001 conscious-jazz-hip-hop cling. He does this with his up-to-date flows and rhymes, and beats that add just enough snare to the funky, guitar- and piano-heavy samples organized by Ski Beatz. It's lounge hip-hop.

Pilot Talk II is the follow-up to Curren$y's Pilot Talk, released last summer. While this album didn't rank as high on the charts as the last one, and generally has the weakness of being a sequel, it's still a worthwhile, heady recording with new sounds and a highly chilled out quality for your swimming mind.

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Twang George Strait
MCA Nashville / Universal

Author:
SAS

George Strait has been making country crooners and rural rockers since 1982, and it shows. He knows how to handle a song. He is able to pick out an inherent mood from a raw idea and draw it into life. Strait, like many pop artists, hasn't written most of the songs he's released. However, he wrote three songs on this album that stand up quite well.

Country artists need to be able to create mellow love songs for slow dances around the saloon, and Strait does great at this, with all the twang he proclaims in this album's title. But his upbeat songs are fun, and certainly integral to the levity of the album. Fiddle and other acoustic instruments, including a slide guitar, really make that pastoral fantasy come to life.

Editor's Note: George Strait landed his first number one hit in 1982, making him an "overnight sensation." But he was working for it since 1976. All my questions and fears about the future are summed up here.

LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL!

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The Vampire Diaries: Original Television Sountrack Various Artists
The CW / Virgin / Warner Bros.

Author:
SAS

Sweet bloody vampire revival music. It's a little '80s, but it's also totally new. Cut in the electro-rock style, and suitable for a range of nerdy and non-nerdy goth-hipsters, these tracks flow from today's longing for sexually tinged vampiric experiences. You'll hear from Goldfrappe, Sky Ferreira, The Smashing Pumpkins, Gorillaz, Bat for Lashes, and a bunch of well-produced nighttime groovers that you've never heard of.

The gender balance of the artists on the soundtrack to The Vampire Diaries is inspiring, and you'll hear all sort of lyrics ranging from silly to serious. A downtempo cover of Tears for Fears' "Head Over Heels" is emblematic of the album. There are at least a couple of Cheeto-worthy piano plunking ballads by young boys, and we could all do without these, but for the most part, this will fulfill your starlit fantasies.

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Classic Appalachian Blues Various Artists
Smithsonian Folkways

Author:
SAS

There is no doubt that you must get Classic Appalachian Blues. The musical continuum of the universe is not complete without it. Every music is informed by its time and place, and the Appalachian mountains of the 20th Century was a special one. There were racial tensions, of course, but this music managed to come to life in a place where black and white people worked together, lived near each other, and exchanged music with each other. You'll also learn that the term "spo-dee-o-dee" wasn't invented by Outkast.

Classics like "Hesitation Blues," "See What You Done Done" and "Sitting on Top of the World" are sung by Etta Baker, John Jackson, Baby Tate and so many others. There are 21 tracks in all, each of which show the beauty of country music and the blues coming together. As always, Smithsonian Folkways has provided extensive liner notes to go with the song collection.

POLITICAL ALBUM OF THE WEEK

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God & Guns Lynyrd Skynyrd
Loud & Proud / Roadrunner

Author:
SAS

Motorcycles and guns and sunshine are the logos of the brand of Southern rock played by Lynyrd Skynyrd. This is just what you'd expect. Loud and exited, God & Guns pushes from song to song like there's no tomorrow, much less a next week. Better get out the beer and live it up right now.

Man it up, pump yer fists and grab your air guitar, for this will give you the opportunity to both rage it and deedle-dee on some California-bound, lick-heavy country tunes. The rest of the world may have moved on from this type of music, but Lynyrd Skynyrd is ageless, so if you love 'em, get this release to add to your burgeoning collection.

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Slime Flu Vado
New Era / EntertainmentOne

Author:
SAS

Vado is another new rap artist emerging from the fast-paced Internet scene. And although Vado has good flow and an overall pleasureable combination of hip-hop words and beats, it's nothing absolutely new or bizarre. Of course, plenty of people just want more of what they already know and love, but with a new personality behind it.

Vado is Cam'ron's protege, so keep an ear out for good ol' Cam'ron on the last two tracks. Vado likes the rich life, and he's at his best when he's singing songs with rich beats. He seems to come to life against the more organic piano or vocal samples. His name stands for "violence and drugs only," but his music is a bit gentler than all that. Overall, it's a highly listenable album that's still badass enough for Vado to jump into the fray with Waka Flocka, Fabolous and his other peers.

Editor's Note: The beat is unstoppably sultry, but the vocals make this one great album, with him spitting sylables in a tounge-twisting, rap-singing style that only he could have invented.

New Artist of the Week

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Strange New World Blue Moon Rising
Rural Rhythm

Author:
SAS

This is just how bluegrass loves to be played: hard and honest. Guitar, mando, banjo, bass and a host of guest-played instruments fill in behind the several voices that sing. The lyrics range in topic. One song is about these guys raising hell, another is about the imagined Jeremiah Callahan and how he copes with the Great Depression. Words about pill popping and kudzu, the invasive vine taking over entire Appalachian hillsides, proves that Blue Moon Rising is no throwback.

Strange New World also covers love and the Devil and the holy. These guys don't ever get too happy-go-lucky on the lyrics. They are somewhat solemn, but it's more of a chilled out bluegrass album than a sad one. Blue Moon Rising slows down the playing here and there, but the band's love for the music never tapers.

Single of the Week: "The Dust Bowl"

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Reconnected Live, 2 CD Set Yazoo
Mute

Author:
SAS

What with the 1980s synth-pop revival going on right now with the rise of the electronic, it's no surprise that pop duo Yazoo got together for a reunion tour. They came out with only two studio albums during their career, one in 1982 and the other in 1983, but they were remembered for these, because the people who attending this live show are rocking out hard.

You'll hear echoing vocals sung with a smile, oonce-ah, oonce-ah house beats and extra-synthy shimmies. Though Reconnected Live was recorded in 2008, you will sincerely believe you have been transported to a place where everyone in the audience is sporting tight black jeans and a fashion mullet - oh wait, they are. This is a carefree blast from yesteryear where the only thing the band seems serious about is making you dance.

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Urbanus Stefon Harris and Blackout
Concord Jazz

Author:
SAS

You are going to play Urbanus next time you are DJing a party and need some jazz with R&B character. With interpretations of the Gershwins and Stevie Wonder and a whole range of originals, Urbanus pushes beyond usual instrumentation with a vocoder for some futuristic, funky, throat-noise vocals. Traces of world music creep in as well.

Enjoy the sounds and complex rhythms throughout the recording, whether they are at their frantic highest or ringing in slow as a slug in love. But pay special attention to the vibraphone, as played by master of the art Stefon Harris. His timing is unassailable. And you can almost feels his wrists on the verge of pushing through the restraint that keeps this music in its magical order.

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

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Fresh Tye Tribbett
Axis / Columbia / Sony

Author:
SAS

Fresh delivers the musical Easter eggs in the form of funky R&B gospel, complete with electric guitar, heavy beats, organ music, singing, rapping and no shortage of AutoTune. The beats vacillate between a slow, soulful bounce and a piano-rich emotive gush. Some of the songs are less obviously gospelly, but all are religious.

This is, indeed, an atypical way to do gospel, and the variety of sounds on the album will take you through a variety of traditionally African-American genres, as well as adult contemporary Christian tunes. You'll probably keep this in heavy rotation if (and only if) you're down with Big J.

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Take 2: Rendezvous With Yesterday Adia Ledbetter
JazziJua

Author:
SAS

Adia Ledbetter is back with her second album, Take 2: Rendezvous With Yesterday. Her voice is gentle but warmer than a summer solstice dream on a winter's night. Ledbetter is always hanging her own jewels to the usual jazz sound. She sings traditional words to traditional songs but then adds some of her own lyrics. She adds long strings of shoo-be-doos and then lets a Latin beat kick in. As for the music, piano, guitar, drums and double bass violin are lovely. A break from brass is okay on a jazz album, especially on vocal jazz.

She wrote a couple of the tunes on Take 2 herself, but many of them are covers that are fully worthy of her sweet coos: think "Lady Bird," "These Foolish Things" and "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man of Mine." Rendezvous With Yesterday is, for the most part, just that - a connection with the rosy ghosts of jazz days past.

Editor's Note: The album sounds sweet and so beautiful.

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Ghost Train: The Studio B Sessions Marty Stuart
Superlatone / Sugar Hill / Welk

Author:
SAS

Marty Stuart has that fast-paced, traditional feel to his country music. Though it's hard to explain where the line is between modern country and Marty Stuart, there is a line. He's more in that Johnny Cash niche than in the Garth Brookes niche. He's into trains and warbling cowboy guitar. Lonesome times are certainly no stranger, but then neither is the love of a woman.

Stuart has employed excellent backup musicians in this old-sounding set of new recordings. It is, indeed, timeless. The aesthetic: American flags, a spiffy white suit and a mullet-chic haircut. Listen for Stuart's tributes to Merle Haggard, Clarence White and Porter Wagoner, listen for covers and originals, and listen for a song that Stuart co-wrote with Cash just four days before Cash's death.

Editor's Note: One of country's most historically minded new traditionalists, Marty Stuart is also one of the most eclectic, moving between honky-tonk, rockabilly, country-rock, traditional country and bluegrass. And he does them all with glorious love.

IF YOU LOVE MUSIC, YOU'LL LOVE THIS!

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