Let's Fall In Love Ella Fitzgerald
Hear / UMe

Author:
KFM

In the ten years or so since David Sedaris unleashed his loving-yet-ruthless impression of Ella Fitzgerald on This American Life, it's been difficult to listen to the First Lady of Song without cracking a smile. Not that Ms. Fitzgerald would begrudge anyone a smile here and there, but her voice, when not being mocked by Sedaris's uncanny rendition, is entirely deserving of the earnest listening it received from previous generations.

This compilation from Universal's "Hear" imprint brings together most of the crucial favorites, including "A Tisket, A Tasket," "Lullaby of Birdland," "They Can't Take That Away From Me (With Louis Armstrong)," "Let's Do It (Let's Fall In Love)," and "In A Mellow Tone" among others. But it also treats the casual fan with relatively difficult to find tracks such as "Miss Otis Regrets (She's Unable to Lunch Today)" and "Hernaldo's Hideaway." No music collection is complete without the must-have songs of Lady Ella, and here, deftly remastered for Universal, they are conveniently and affordably brought together on one beautifully packaged disc.

Editor's Note: Ella Fitzgerald captures true lonesomness, her intimate sound is set over crying music.

Single of the Week: Lulliby Of Birdland

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Distance and Fortune Jonny Burke
Dreamcar

Author:
KFM

Comparisons to Townes Van Zandt or John Prine are inevitable for this young Texas native with prediliction for almost photographic metonyms and a sense of wisdom that exceeds his years. But such comparisons needn't mean that, like Prine or Townes, Burke will be doomed to be loved by critics and fellow musicians but overlooked by commercial success. On the contrary, with the right backing band, Burke might turn out to be the next Tom Petty; his pop-lyricism has that magical combination of accessibility and poetry.

Burke's first full-length, "Distance and Fortune" brings his slight, gravely voice to a variety of tunes that neatly defy genre expectations. It would be a shame if that makes him go unnoticed by the radio DJs, as there are a number of promising songs here. The closer, "Long Steady Decline" stands out among them, and it might be a good theme song for 2011—a year that has eeked out of financial crisis, but from which continued decay and decline seem inevitable. Producer Marc Ford must have a nifty dial on the board with which he can "turn up the Dylan." On "Long Steady Decline" and elsewhere the effect is almost over the top, but also almost believable.

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Ten Toes Down 8Ball & MJG
Grand Hustle / EntertainmentOne

Author:
KFM

When 8Ball & MJG came to Bay Boy Records in 2003 to form Bad Boy South they were referred to by Sean Combs as "Urban Legends." Though the relationship with Combs / Diddy and Bad Boy didn't prove as profitable as predicted, the moniker has stuck: Ten Toes Down represents the latest offerings from these "Urban Legends," seeking to position themselves as respected elders in the predominantly young Southern rap scene.

For the most part the duo live up to the legend on "Ten Toes Down" by serving as curators of hot young emcees, including Young Dro, Soljaboy and Lil Boosie—all of whom bare some allegiance to 8Ball & MJG's new home at Grand Hustle / E1. And while the beats are mean and melodic, the whole thing feels a little contrived: the best parts of the record are the verses donated by these young rappers. Even the stand out song on the album features Grand Hustle's own CEO TI, with his customarily stellar rhymes on ""What They Do", where the elders and the youngster alike go out on a limb to decry the effects of "haters" on the industry. 

Regardless of who is owed the most credit for the album, it is a strong, lean example of the slightly toned down exuberance that we've come to expect from the dirty south stars at Grand Hustle.

Editor's Note: Their view of the fucking world, and their frustration with everything is captured here.

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Look at What the Light Did Now Feist
Cherrytree / Interscope /Universal

Author:
KFM

As a soundtrack, "Look at What the Light Did Now," tells the story of suprise success Feist sharing the wealth, and the spotlight, with friends and collaborators. Presumably sharing is the reason behind the title of the film, as well, which derives from a song by Little Wings/ Kyle Field. Field appears here, on the soundtrack, only on the final track, when he sings "Look at What the Light Did Now," as a duet with Feist, but it is possible that Field's affable, slightly hallucinatory aura prevades the entirety of the film.

More, it could be that it is precisely that aura that led to Fiest's unexpected commercial success in the first place: she makes accessible to a wide audience the playful quirkiness that has long characterized certain corners of the indie/ DiY scene. I'm thinking here especially of K Records acts like The Blow or Mira, who, like Feist, are known for shows that walk a line between puppetry, performance art and musical performance. In that sense we might read the appropriation of the title track as a form of intellectual generosity: Feist is acknowledging her debt to artists like Kyle Field, whose serious, uhhh, quirkiness will likely preclude any significant commercial success, ever.

The rest of the songs on the soundtrack are pulled from Feist's two previous albums. Nearly half of the record consists of frequent collaborator / co-songwriter Chilly Gonzalez preforming songs from those records on piano, unaccompanied. That signals some dissapointment for fans hoping to squeeze even one more original song out of the soundtrack. And none of what appears here is likely to be picked up by Apple for another iPod commercial as "1234" was. Still, the recordings of Gonzalez on piano are quite lovely, and the story that the record tells—of a rising pop-star who would prefer to share the limelight—is fairly compelling. To see if that story rings true, watch out for screenings of the film coming to festivals near you.

ARTIST TO WATCH

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Jook Joint Thunderclap John-Alex Mason
Naked Jaybird /Burnside

Author:
KFM

Don't let the funky beats and the pretty cover art fool you: this is a record to take very seriously. John-Alex Mason may be a white guy from Colorado, but the blues that move through these songs are a boomerang toss from Memphis that doesn't come to rest until it has taken in Guinean percussion, Chicagoland electric blues and west coast indie-rock sensibilities. At base these are dirty, nasty, stripped down blues that are justified in calling on the delta geneology that Mason and friends call upon.

A great deal of that geneology derives from R.L. Burnsides. Two of the late, great bluesman's grandsons appear on this record, but, maybe of more importance are Mason's convincing interpretation of standard Burnsides tropes such as "the signifying monkey." Cedric Burnsides does contribute bone-rattling percussion throughout (just google his name to watch videos that demonstrate why he picks up drumming awards the way most percussionists pick up sticks). Mason holds his own though, easily appearing as the featured musician on covers and original songs alike.

The prominent and growing role that Burnsides plays in lively punk-blues scene cannot be overstated: that grittiness that bands like the Black Keys are just now bringing to a mainstream audience emerged as much from collaborations between John Spencer Blues Explosion and Burnsides as it did from more obvious references like Zepplin. As the "Jook Joint Thunderclap" or any other name, Mason and his friends are keeping these deep-blues alive and opening up new possibilities of experimentation.

Editor's note: He creates musics roots and forms it to his own will.

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(Icon) No Doubt
Interscope / UMe

Author:
KFM

A greatest hits record for No Doubt seems a little silly to folks of my generation, for whom they will always be remembered alongside Rancid as poseurs who achieved one-hit-wonder stardom by selling ska-pop and selling out the punk ethic. It turns out that in No Doubt's case such memory is slightly unfair on the following two counts:

1) Nothing, ethically or otherwise, about No Doubt was ever slightly punk. These folks pretty much emerged from the womb looking to cut a deal with a major label. Ska and pop-punk just happened to be the tepid bath-water that they were "discovered" wading in.

2) It turns out that No Doubt did make other records besides the 1995 "Tragic Kingdom" for which they are most widely known. And some of those included hits: "Rock Steady" saw the release of "Underneath it All," for example, which went a ways toward repaying the debt to ska and reggae by bringing Dancehall Queen Lady Saw to widespread stateside recognition.

Even so, this collection is forced to dig pretty deep into the stacks to come up with a complete record of "hits." Witness the inclusion of "Trapped in a Box," the only "single" from the band's self-titled 1992 album: disappointed by absysmal sales, Interscope declined to release any singles for the album. It is only in very generous retrospection that this record and the 2003 collection "The Singles" include the song.

Still, as with all of the releases on Interscope's "Icon" imprint, all of the must-have songs are here, including "Don't Speak," "Spiderwebs," and "Just a Girl." Buy it if you have a soft-spot for such drivel and, like so many others you threw away your copy of "Tragic Kingdom" in 1998, upon entering college. But this time find a good shelf in the back of the closet to hide No Doubt from the prying eyes of your more legitimately punk (and admittedly snobbish) friends.

Editor's Note: The most stunning thing is the impressionist voltage, the intensely personal accusation in Gwen Stefani's voice, and the stiletto-sharp spirals.

Late But Great

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Sacred Earth Dean Everson
Soundings of the Planet

Author:
KFM

Dean Evenson and his many collaborators at Soundings of the Planet records don't really make music to be listened to, they make music to be absorbed. That the listener is rarely completely aware that the record is playing is something of a compliment in the new age and meditation genre. The sonorous flutes and synthesizers are self-conscious about the utilitarian role that they play: this is music to block out the other noises that surround us. It is like the exact opposite of the infamous John Cage composition "4'33," in which music is denaturalized by forcing the listener to pay attention to the ambient sounds of the room and the world outside that intrudes on that room. In contrast, this album will blanket you in a soft, lavender scented envelope of sound that drowns out the outside world, even if it is beating down your door.

Evenson and friends are masters at such "sonic incense," weaving together a patented blend of flute, keyboard, cello, guitar and crystal bowls with "earth resonance frequency" ("for deeper relaxation") in eleven tracks of blissfully flowing sound. The album closes with a chant for the earth by Lummi Nation elder Cha-das-ska-Dum. Cha-das-ska-Dum passed away recently, making this one of the last of many collaborations with Evenson.

Such records are not for everybody, and only appeal to me at the day spa and the acupuncturist's office, but if you need something to help you forget how terribly screwed  our world is, and wrap you instead in a mystic and mythic ambiance, look no further than Dean Evenson's "Sacred Earth" and other releases from "Soundings of the Planet."

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Gwar's Bloddy Pit of Horror Gwar
Metal Blade

Author:
KFM

Oderus, Balsac and Jizmak are back, with another infallible collection of thrash glory to destroy humanity. "Bloody Pit of Horror" was released in November, just in time to make it into the Christmas stocking of every sex-craved extraterrestrial scumdog in America. Coming, as it does, on the heels of another year of fleet-footed world-touring, "Bloody Pit" is sure to please hardcore fans and newcomers alike with songs about murder, meat, zombies and raunchy deformity.

Gwar have always been proud of their role at the forefront of metal's joke/performance/horror scene, but that same role has often served to deminish and/or excuse their musical accomplishments. For fans whose love extends beyond the faux-blood-spattered costumes and side-show antics "Bloody Pit" will be something of a relief; the production and the songwriting here is ridiculously heavy. It stands apart from legitimately hardcore underground and death metal only in as much as Oderus's lyrics are clearly discernable.

Comparisons to the 1990 release of "Scumdogs of the Universe" are thus apt, in so much as the band gets exactly the right mix of jokes, crust-fueled thrash metal chops and obscenity. "Exactly right," that is, if you like Gwar. And if you don't like Gwar, they're probably on their way to your house right now to tear down your door, rape your pets and eat your sister until you learn to love them.

Editor's Note: Gwar are bikers, hotrodders, gum-smacking guys, not careful at all about their language or what they have to say. Kings of leather jackets.

MIGHTY, MIGHTY!

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Doghouse Rose Sara Petite
Independent

Author:
KFM

Country singer/songwriter Sara Petite hails from Washington State but has made her home, and her burgeoning career, in sunny San Diego California. San Diego is known for a lot of things, including the size of its Naval bases, its stunning zoo, its indie-rock scene, and for being Richard Nixon's "favorite city in America." It's not tricky Dick, but San Diego's other one-time Nixon that sings Petite's praises most tunefully; of Petite proto-cowpunk / subgenius demigod Mojo Nixon has said, “She could sing a buzzard off a Slop Wagon."

And for the most part Petite's third album, "Doghouse Rose" lives up to Mojo's promise: the highly melodic southern twang that surges from the young singer exudes a confidence that would stop a train in its tracks. She's backed, throughout, by an accomplished band of professional musicians. Petite wrote most of the songs herself, with the exception of a cover of Harlan Howard's "He Called Me Baby" on which Petite's woman-scorned brio is perfectly off-set by the band's ornery outlaw country jams.

Editor's Note: Birds take away pain. That's what great music is: who wants pain?

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Man of Many Moons, Danny Schmidt
Red House

Author:
KFM

Danny Schmidt writes deceptively simple songs. Deceptive, that is, on a number of counts:

His lovely, lissome voice can tend to make you think that you're listening to some pretty-boy whose scope is as limited as an open-mic night in some hippy town or other. That's not what's going on here.

His proclivity for surrealism and meandering, lengthy choruses bring to mind Dylan's motorcycle-crash era. There's something of that propheticism, but that's not what's going on here, either.

His obliquely political tendencies suggest that he's itching to be another Phil Ochs or David Rovics. But on careful listen these songs are political only by happenstance: he's telling stories right and left, and part of those stories is solidarity, hardship, and a squinting utopianism. So that's not what's going on here.

What is going on here is deceptive enough that I'm loathe to pin it down with adjectives or genre expectations. It's slippery and delicate and rises to the surface for moments of harmony when Schmidt's sweetheart Carrie Elkin chimes in. Buy it and listen to it over and over.

Editor's Note: Danny Schmidt sings with pure and radical emotion.

LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL

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GT2: Nu World El Da Sensei & The Returners
Coalmine

Author:
KFM

Records that sport staunchly traditional hip-hop should not be expected to sell millions of copies in today's market; the industry is fixated on wondering what the next big thing will be, and wondering which rock-guitarist or r&b diva's collaboration with a producer-gone-emcee will result in a top-charting single. But that is no reason to label those rappers as "derivative" those rappers that brave to be faithful to that boom-bap sound: to do so is not simply disrespectful to the musician, but risks forgetting where the music comes from.

It is exactly that sort of traditional sound that El Da Sensei has been bringing to fans since his early days with the Artifacts in the '90s. His half-dozen or so releases over the past decade have seen updated production and sensibities, but the music has been solidly grounded in funky beats and battle-ready lyricism. With his three most recent records—all of them collaborations with Polish hip-hop duo The Returners—El Da Sensei brings a contemporary feel to a classic formula, and on a few key tracks they get the recipe just right. Akrobatik contributes a particularly impressive verse on "Live Noize," as does Rakaa Iriscience on the standout track "Knowledge is the Key."

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Tomorrow's Children Pete Seeger with the Rivertown Kids and Friends
Appleseed

Author:
KFM

Pete Seeger turned 90 last year, as he himself points out in his spoken introduction to "Tomorrow's Children." Long the old-man of the folk music, he's frequently found himself out-of-touch with Youth Culture, but he's never actually been far from the pulse of children: indeed, through the "We Sing..." songbooks and recordings he has been instrumental in forming the earliest memories of music for many of us.

On "Tomorrow's Children" Seeger is back in the saddle with characteristic progressivism and folk-populism. But this time it's not Seeger helping kids discover their inner-idealism, but kids helping Seeger discover the themes and issues that count today. Seeger wrote and recorded these songs with a classroom full of fourth-grade musicians in his own hometown of Beacon, N.Y. and with the help of their teacher Tery Udell.

Highlights from the recordings include "English is Cuh-ray-zee" (which plays, punnily on the idiosyncrasies of the English language) and "It's a Hong Haul," in which Dan Einbender leads Seeger and the kids in a song that, appropriately enough, explains the difficulties and potentials of social struggle in generational terms. This is an exceedingly cute album, to be sure, and would make a welcome addition to the musical curriculum of any elementary school teacher, but it also offers us an opertunity to reflect on the contributions of a treasure of the American folk movement: Pete Seeger, approaching the end of his life, has made a sound like a hammer, a sound that reverberates through generations.

Editor's Note: Pete Seeger's achievement rests not on innovation but on conscious and commitment. Truly one of a kind.

Political Album of the Week

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Putumayos Presents: Jazz Around the World V/A
Putumayo

Author:
KFM

This collection of contemporary jazz from around the globe opens, appropraitely enough, with Chantal Chamberland doing a Quebecois-French translation of the Bobby Darin standard "Beyond the Sea" (rendered here as, simply, "La Mer"). Appropriate, that is, not simply due to the lyrical figure in the song looking out upon the ocean, awaiting the return on her love (much as Putumayo peers out over the oceans, offering world musicians safe-harbor), but also because, like a cover song that requires extensive and liberal translation, the record is a nifty collection of new and old.

Even rabid jazz fans are unlikely to be familiar with the breadth of musicians sampled here, and there is a bit of something for everyone. A favorite track is  Kora Jazz Trio's reinterpretation of "Chan Chan" (a tune made famous by the Buena Vista Social Club soundtrack) with charismatic African kora and percussion and stunning piano accompaniment. When Heather Rigdon lends her sultry voice on "Young and Naive," comparisons to Norah Jones possibly understate the vocal complexity of the young Texan's singing. The collection closes, appropriately enough, with a man who was instrumental to the beginnings of "global jazz:" Hugh Masekela, who broke through to US commercial success in the 1960s with a little help from his friend Harry Belafonte, is accompanied by the vibrant and bright voice of young Malaika on "Open the Door."

As with all Putumayo samplers, "Jazz Around the World" is treated with excellent production and terrific packaging. Here the extensive liner notes appear in English, French and Spanish, further demonstrating Putumayo's enduring commitment to bring music too, as well as from, all corners of the world.

Editor's Note: Putumayo will always be my favorite record company. They are due to put music out by Egyptians, Lybians, Unionists and leftists.

Single of the Week: Hugh Masekela and Malaika "Open the Door"

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'Bout Damn Time Kentucky Thunder
Independent

Author:
KFM

"Kentucky Thunder" is an unfortunately obvious name to choose for a hard-rocking country outfit. Google it and you'll get at least a fistful of groups, ranging from Ricky Scagg's touring band to a few fat truckers in Tulsa who imagine themselves to have a future in music. That these ladies of the Nashville nightlife are among those results isn't obvious, but once you hear them play, you'll never need google to guide you again.

That's not because Kentucky Thunder brings anything new to the table: their carefully arranged four-part harmonies, frenetic backing band and bluesy ballads are a time-tested recipe. But they do it very well, and despite their day-jobs as songwriters and backing vocalists of the New Nashville sound, the recordings presented here are unconcerned with genres and boundaries. At moments the squeeling guitars and rock-ballad vocals get so thick that we might be listening to Guns 'n Roses. At other moments the R&B comes to the surface and the ladies intertwined voices bare a striking resemblance to En Vogue.

Beloved songwriter John Prine says of the group, "Four Amazing Voices creating one amazing sound." With a recommendation like that I don't think that there's any need for me to chime in.

NEW ARTIST OF THE WEEK

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My Lady Don't Love My Lady Bryan Lee
Justin Time

Author:
KFM

Bryan Lee, New Orlean's 'Braille Blues Daddy,' has a new set of kicking electric blues on Justin Time Records, and, as always, they bring all the vitality and verve of Burboun Street to bare on a handy compact disc. I had the pleasure of witnessing Lee and his Blues Power Band lay it down one sticky night the summer of 2000, and I can testify to the capacity that these old guys have for moving a sweating crowd of drunkards to their feet and to keep them moving. A stand-out sight on the strip at that time, when most of the clubs sought the college crowd with funk and pop, Bryan Lee could be heard belting out the blues even through the throngs of jagermister swilling frat boys and bar maids that clogged the street at that time.

Though the decade that has interceded has been tough on New Orleans, it has done little to damage Bryan Lee and his patented brand of Chicago-blues gone south.

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Sixteen Bars The Delta Flyers
Soulbilly

Author:
KFM

The Delta Flyers are a dynamic blues band out of Houston, Texas, that bring together the songwriting skills and harmonica stylings of Stevie DuPree with the guitar mastery of Travis Stephenson. "Sixteen Bars" is the third album by the Delta Flyers as such, and marks the band's full maturity and breadth as a blues-outfit.

Not afraid to dabble in hillybilly country tunes or minor key progressions, the band keeps the record lively throughout. Standout tracks include the slightly sinister "Poison Took My Baby" and the title track, "Sixteen Bars" (which slides north into some Chicago-blues before landing solidly in the dirty-south through Stephenson's gritty resophonic guitar work). The highlight, however, is "I Got to Testify," when Rich DelGrosso sits in with some heavenly mandolin and the band is backed by what sounds like a drunken bar-full of friends on a rowdy, tumultous chorus.

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Who Knows Where the Time Goes Rondi Charleston
Motema

Author:
KFM

Rondi Charleston set aside her first career in music in order to become a journalist, and set-aside her successful journalism career to take up the mic again. So she's no cub reporter and no spring chicken. Yet the lessons learned along the way are serving her well: the songs that she presents on "Who Knows Where Time Goes?" suggest a scholarly variety that indicates that her journalistic research skills are still being put to good use.

Of the twelve tracks here about half are penned by Charleston herself and all are accompanied by a skillful, at times whimsical jazz band. But it is on the covers tunes that Charleston really excells: her take on the Bosso Nova classic "Wave" (written by Carlos Antonio Jobim but popularized by Frank Sinatra and, later, by Ella Fitzgerald) is stunning and lives up to the worldly, sophisticated requirements of a song that takes continents and whole generations of cool. Charleston is similarly graceful in her cover of the Stevie Wonder classic, "Overjoyed."

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

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Queen's Hotel John Wort Hannam
Black Hen / Factor / Canada

Author:
KFM

"Queen's Hotel" opens with a song about seeking advice from our fathers. Hannam's father is a carpenter, and so, appropriately enough, the chorus of the song is made up of carefully repurposed clichés from the trades ("measure twice before you cut, you'll always bend your nail if you..."), but concludes that you "don't have to go with the grain." It seems like fitting advice for a songwriter who was well into life and a teaching career before he taught hiself guitar and went on the road.

Hannam is a storyteller at base. He manages some impressive straight rhymes on "Requiem for a Small Town" and elsehwhere, and some lovely images on "Church of the Long Grass," but it is a stretch to imagine the guy as a poet, much less a composer. He's backed by a skilled mandolinist and, at moments, some nicely produced electric guitar, but mostly what you hear is Hannam's singing and some straightforward, simple folky chord progressions. That suits Hannam's stories neatly, which are matchingly simple and pretty.

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Ghost in the Bed Lynn Biddick
Momentous

Author:
KFM

Lynn Biddick went to Berklee College of Music at the same time as Gillian Welch, it seems, and, like Welch, left Boston to seek commercial success in Nashville. There the two co-hosted "Born to Cook" and met many industry insiders and studio musicians. But the comparison pretty much ends there: unlike Welch, whose timeless voice and uncanny knack for picking at the heart of Americana has practically restructured the genre, Biddick has little to offer.

"Ghost in the Bed" even includes one song that written by Gillian Welch. "I Don't Want To Go Downtown," which Welch wrote in the late '90s but never recorded) is probably the highlight of the record, even though it smacks of sub-textual born-again Christian leanings. On the whole these songs remind one of a variety pack of scented candles: there are many different flavors (Key Lime, Vanilla, Strawberry Cheesecake) but they all taste like wax.

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The Wreckage Will Hoge
Ryko

Author:
KFM

Bob Dylan is thought to have been in a pretty nasty motorcycle accident in July of 1966. Some biographers divide his life and work into "pre" and "post" accident. The accident itself will forever be shrouded in mystery, but the ramifications have been felt for decades. The accident that struck Will Hoge in 2008 is much less mysterious (a van ran the songwriter's scooter down when it failed to yield on a Nashville boulevard). But the ramifications might be equally resonant.

Hoge seems to have recovered from the accident and finished recording the album he was working on at the time (appropriately titled "The Wreckage"). His scars are healing, but it is hard to know how such trauma scars a poet's soul. On tracks like "Goodbye / Goodnight," and the title track "The Wreckage," Hoge seems to exceed the classic rock trappings of his previous recordings and touch on greatness. What the future holds for this stirring talent, however, is as much an unknown as what lies around that next corner.

Editor's Note: He faces up to adult struggles, with world-weary defiance. Propelled with raged harmonies.

IF YOU LIKE MUSIC, YOU'LL LOVE THIS!

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Sigh No More Mumford & Sons
Glassnote

Author:
KFM

When Mumford & Sons and the Avett Brothers were brought on stage with Bob Dylan at the Grammys last week to help belt out a cacophonous version of "Maggie's Farm," the bunch of them looked like they were ready to take on the national guard that, infamously, stands around Maggie's father's door. But the metaphor is decidedly mixed: on the one hand their numbers and their noise presaged the scale of protests this past week at Wisconsin's State House, where teachers and democratic assembly-persons alike declared that they would no longer work on Maggie's farm, as it were. On the other hand, it is hard to imagine Mumford & Sons or the Avett Brothers going out on strike against the music industry: their passionate act of rebellion is just that, an act.

Or, at least, that's where most of the critique of Mumford & Sons, in particular, resides. While the band's debut "Sigh No More" has steadily climbed the charts and garnered more and more awards (the combination of which has sparked this special edition reissue reviewed here), critics maintain a steady refrain of, "these guys are faking it." Legions of fans beg to disagree. Listening to the album, it's hard not to sympathize with both positions. The plaintive lyrics of front man Marcus Mumford are lent a degree of authenticity by truly gorgeous four-part harmonies and a rollicking banjo. Or the guy is a whining snob with a good production team.

Ultimately, Mumford & Sons were a spectacle and a spectacular phenomenon in 2010 with the release of "Sigh No More." But it is only one album. Remember that it wasn't until Dylan's fifth record that he declared independence from the folk-music scene with "Maggie's Farm": Mumford & Sons might yet turn their penchant for passion and poetry into something truly poetic and passionate.

Single of the Week: "White Page Blank"

BEST ALBUM OF THE WEEK

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