Posts tagged with "MAR/APR 2011"

RON SEXSMITH

RON SEXSMITH
RON SEXSMITH Getting his career back with the help of an unlikely collaborator Ron Sexsmith doesn’t come across as your typical rock star. Cherubic and looking perhaps half of his 47 years, he’s notoriously shy and insecure. So what is this sensitive soul doing hanging around with Bob Rock, a guy best known for producing the hard-and-heavy likes of Metallica and Mötley Crüe? “When Bob came on board, I started to get excited again,” Sexsmith... 

STEVE EARLE

STEVE EARLE
STEVE EARLE How a singer-songwriter, actor and activist learned to be a novelist Singer and songwriter Steve Earle will soon release both a new T Bone Burnett–produced album and his first novel—both named for the Hank Williams classic “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive.” Earle struggled with drug addiction in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but his high these days is productivity: He’s also writing a play, acting on HBO’s Treme... 

BOOTSY COLLINS

BOOTSY COLLINS
BOOTSY COLLINS The funkiest bass player in the universe throws an all-star party “I am the funk, I’m with the funk, the funk is within me,” declares legendary bass player Bootsy Collins—and you’d better believe it. Whether holding down the mighty grooves of James Brown’s early-1970s band the J.B.’s, slapping his way through extraterrestrial funk workouts with George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic, charting solo hits such as “Bootzilla,”... 

JOE BONAMASSA

JOE BONAMASSA
JOE BONAMASSA Goodbye to the rib joints, hello to blues-rock guitar hero status By Russell Hall “People told me I was destined to play rib joints and biker rallies all my life,” says Joe Bonamassa, reflecting on his early years as a struggling blues-rock guitarist. “But I knew there had to be a better way.” But more than a decade and a half into his career, today Bonamassa has arrived at the pinnacle of the blues-rock world—and he’s... 

JAMES STROUD

JAMES STROUD
JAMES STROUD Bringing a session player’s perspective to Nashville hitmaking By Michael Gallant If you’ve listened to a country radio station anytime in the last 20 years, chances are you’ve experienced the craftsmanship of studio drummer-turned-producer James Stroud. One of Nashville’s most prolific and successful hitmakers, Stroud has produced multiplatinum albums for country giants like Tim McGraw, Toby Keith and Clint Black, and over... 

ALISON KRAUSS

ALISON KRAUSS
ALISON KRAUSS Two decades along, bluegrass’ conquering angel is still on the move By Russell Hall If there’s one lesson Alison Krauss learned from working with producer T Bone Burnett on Raising Sand, the album she and Robert Plant made together in 2007, it’s the importance of being in the moment. “I’ve always believed I could get a better vocal by re-singing it, or manufacturing a vocal by putting together multiple takes,” she says.... 

LUCINDA WILLIAMS

LUCINDA WILLIAMS
LUCINDA WILLIAMS A songwriter known for melancholy looks on the bright side Lucinda Williams has earned a reputation over the last three decades for writing songs that were as melancholy as they were dazzling. So, many fans were surprised when her most recent album, 2008’s Little Honey, found her sounding happy and optimistic. Her latest, the aptly titled Blessed, further proves that emotional turmoil isn’t the only fuel for her art. “Now I’m... 

NIKKI SIXX

NIKKI SIXX
NIKKI SIXX The Mötley Crüe and Sixx:A.M. rocker prefers clicks to cliques When bass player and songwriter Nikki Sixx isn’t busy shouting at the devil with Mötley Crüe or Sixx:A.M., you’ll find him taking photos or writing books. His latest project, This Is Gonna Hurt, combines all three: It’s a book of photography and prose accompanied by an album of the same name. This Is Gonna Hurt showcases Sixx’s gritty photos, serves as his literary... 

R.E.M.

R.E.M.
R.E.M. After three decades, still showing the kids how it’s done “Let’s sing and rhyme, let’s give it one more time,” sings R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe in “All the Best,” a song from the group’s 15th and newest album, Collapse Into Now. “Let’s show the kids how to do it.” Especially coming from a lyricist known for his obtuse wordplay, it’s a loud-and-clear statement for a band in the midst of an artistic renaissance. Following... 

AVRIL LAVIGNE

AVRIL LAVIGNE
AVRIL LAVIGNE A pop princess strips down her sound—and fights for her vision Goodbye Lullaby is Avril Lavigne’s first new album in four years—and her most emotional effort yet. “It’s not like I haven’t gone there before,” says Lavigne, who has sold more than 10 million albums since releasing her debut, 2002’s Let Go, at age 17. “I’ve done that on some of my albums, but I was really in that place and wanted to go more in that direction.”... 

THE DUKE SPIRIT

THE DUKE SPIRIT
THE DUKE SPIRIT A powerhouse band, a flamethrowing singer, a bruising album—and home décor too Liela Moss is covered in paint. The Duke Spirit’s lead singer is taking advantage of a lull in the group’s tour schedule to take care of some decorating around her house in London. “You’ve got to keep things looking nice,” she chirps in her clipped, melodious British accent. Few would guess that this cheerful, petite gal-about-the-house is... 

JASON ISBELL

JASON ISBELL
JASON ISBELL The feeling, the fever, the folks, the fiddles, a farewell and the 400 Unit Jason Isbell is not feeling well. “I’m always kind of glad to get sick at home,” he says optimistically, “because I don’t want to mess with it when I’m on the road.” He’ll have to get out of his sickbed soon, like it or not—he and his backup group the 400 Unit have just completed their new album, and a series of high-profile gigs awaits. The... 

WANDA JACKSON

WANDA JACKSON
WANDA JACKSON The Queen of Rockabilly proves you’re never too old to earn new Stripes When the blues had a baby called rock ’n’ roll, Wanda Jackson was there for the delivery. “Back when I was touring with Elvis in 1957, we didn’t even call it rock ’n’ roll,” she remembers. “It was just ‘the kind of songs the kids liked.’” Jackson credits her then-boyfriend Presley with encouraging her to branch out from her country roots... 

BAND OF HEATHENS

BAND OF HEATHENS
BAND OF HEATHENS The secret to this Austin collective’s success? Don’t plan, just play It’s noon in Austin, but the Band of Heathens’ Gordy Quist sounds like he’s still sleepy. “I’m a bit hazy,” he says by way of apology. “It’s been a long 24 hours.” With upward of 200 gigs a year, the group’s devotion to its packed-out schedule comes naturally by now. In fact, the Band of Heathens was quite literally born on stage—the group... 

PANIC! AT THE DISCO

PANIC! AT THE DISCO
PANIC! AT THE DISCO No need for alarm—the synth-popsters have returned to the dance floor When Panic! At the Disco announced in July 2009 that it was reinserting the exclamation point it had dropped from its name the previous year, there were two ways to read the news. One: The Las Vegas band really was panicking. This would have been understandable, given that bassist Jon Walker and guitarist and primary lyricist Ryan Ross had just quit, leaving... 

JOHN OATES

JOHN OATES
JOHN OATES Writing a musical autobiography by rediscovering his roots When John Oates first started getting to know Darryl Hall more than four decades ago, the two young Philadelphia natives had a love of R&B in common. But Oates had another passion, one that got obscured during the duo’s subsequent rise to pop stardom: roots music. Although you might not guess it from Hall and Oates’ hits, he cut his teeth on classic folk and blues as a... 

DENGUE FEVER

DENGUE FEVER
DENGUE FEVER Giving new life to a genre once thought lost to tragedy When the brutal Khmer Rouge regime took control of Cambodia in 1975, it set about destroying all elements of Western culture. American-influenced music was banned, and singers like Sinn Sisamouth, Pan Ron and Ros Sereysothea were put to death along with more than a million of their countrymen. Cambodia’s distinctive brand of garage-style rock practically vanished. “So much of... 

KINA GRANNIS

KINA GRANNIS
KINA GRANNIS HOMETOWN: Mission Viejo, Calif. INFLUENCES: Jason Mraz, Alanis Morissette, Vertical Horizon ALBUM: Stairwells, out now WEBSITE: kinagrannis.com In 2007, Kina Grannis decided to upload her performance of her song “Message From Your Heart” to YouTube in hopes of winning a contest. Win it she did, earning the clip a televised airing during the Super Bowl—and an internet following that has since grown into the millions. “One of... 

FRANCESCA BATTISTELLI

FRANCESCA BATTISTELLI
FRANCESCA BATTISTELLI HOMETOWN: New York City INFLUENCES: John Mayer, Nichole Nordeman, Stevie Wonder ALBUM: Hundred More Years, out now WEBSITE: francescamusic.com When she wrote and recorded her debut album, 2008’s My Paper Heart, all New York native Francesca Battistelli had to worry about was the task at hand. When she went to work on the new follow-up, Hundred More Years, she had quite a bit more on her mind. “This time,” she says,... 

HENRY WOLFE

HENRY WOLFE
HENRY WOLFE HOMETOWN: Los Angeles INFLUENCES: Paul McCartney, Randy Newman, Harry Nilsson ALBUM: Linda Vista, out now WEBSITE: henrywolfe.com He may be the only musician in his immediate family, but Henry Wolfe clearly has creativity in his DNA: His father is respected sculptor Don Gummer, his mother is movie icon Meryl Streep and two of his three sisters are actors as well. Wolfe began channeling his own artistic impulses into music after receiving... 

COLD BLUE REBELS

COLD BLUE REBELS
COLD BLUE REBELS Blood, Guts N’ Rock & Roll myspace.com/coldbluerebels Cold Blue Rebels could easily be knocking out Stray Cats covers or ’50s standards, but these L.A. punkabillies would rather slather on the corpse paint and sing about dating dead chicks. It’s tasteless, juvenile stuff, but that’s the point. If “Zombie Love” doesn’t make you chuckle, you might be among the walking dead yourself.  Read More →

WOLFRAM

WOLFRAM
WOLFRAM Wolfram diskokaine.com Trinidadian singer Haddaway scored a crossover techno hit with 1993’s “What Is Love?” Austrian producer Wolfram devotes his debut to revisiting that question in sound and sentiment, reviving the disco beats and minor-key electronics of early-’90s Eurodance. Haddaway himself guests on “Thing Called Love,” still searching, still grooving.  Read More →

IAN AXEL

IAN AXEL
IAN AXEL This Is the New Year myspace.com/ianaxel Like Owl City without the synths or Vanessa Carlton with a Y chromosome, Ian Axel churns out smart, catchy songs about the pains of being a pure-hearted 20-something. The best of this bunch is the title cut—a piano-pop pep talk that even cynics might get behind.  Read More →

DIRTY BEACHES

DIRTY BEACHES
DIRTY BEACHES Badlands dirtybeaches.blogspot.com Taiwanese-born one-man-band Alex Zhang Hungtai explores the seedy side of ’50s culture, demonstrating the influence of filmmaker David Lynch as much as Elvis Presley. He creates lo-fi, laptop-made minimalist rockabilly soundtracks for your darkest, most twisted nightmares.  Read More →

ANCIENT ASTRONAUTS

ANCIENT ASTRONAUTS
ANCIENT ASTRONAUTS Into Bass and Time myspace.com/ancientastronautsswitch Proof that hip-hop can come from anywhere and sound like anything, the sophomore effort by these German producers features funk-soul brass, turntable scratches and Far Eastern strings, among other sounds. The constants: thumping bass and drums, the cement and water in a foundation thick enough to support it all.  Read More →

TAHITI 80

TAHITI 80
TAHITI 80 The Past, the Present & the Possible tahiti80.com The sixth Tahiti 80 album arrives via the band’s own Human Sounds imprint, cheekily named for the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. The French sextet is clearly acquainted with that touchstone of classic pop, but Brian Wilson’s masterwork isn’t the only influence on this music. Most of the tracks here combine ’80s synth-pop with modern R&B, satisfying both the “past” and “present”... 

FIVE O’CLOCK HEROES

FIVE O’CLOCK HEROES
FIVE O’CLOCK HEROES Different Times myspace.com/fiveoclockheroes It’s no wonder these New Yorkers hit first in England and are just now, three albums into their career, making their stateside debut. The Brits surely hear in the Heroes echoes of late-’70s U.K. greats Graham Parker, Joe Jackson and XTC, if not latter-day equivalents like the Fratellis and Kaiser Chiefs. Most of these songs find singer Anthony Ellis doing his best Andy Partridge... 

TURISAS

TURISAS
TURISAS Stand Up and Fight turisas.com Listening to the third album from Finnish symphonic-metal crew Turisas, the foremost question becomes what to do with one’s hands. Throwing the classic devil-horns gesture seems fitting—but only when the guitars are chugging, the double bass drums are charging like a Clydesdale, and singer Mathias “Warlord” Nygård is affecting a demonic growl. When the horns and strings swoop in, setting the stage for... 

YOUNG PRISMS

YOUNG PRISMS
YOUNG PRISMS Friends for Now myspace.com/youngprisms On its own, each element that makes up Young Prisms’ debut would sound monotonous, abrasive or both. The bass and drums throb pleasantly enough, ramping up old-school girl-group rhythms, but the guitars drone like amplified vacuum cleaners and the two singers do little more than howl into the sonic tornado. But when these wily San Franciscans put all these elements together they get songs like... 

WHITE MYSTERY

WHITE MYSTERY
WHITE MYSTERY Blood & Venom whitemysteryband.com Boy-girl duo, fat garage riffs, surname White: It’s a familiar premise, but White Mystery is no White Stripes rip-off. In this Chicago band the girl is up front, and Alex White has a personality as big and mean as her growly guitar tone. She also sings like a feral Ronette—or maybe a young Grace Slick minus the artsy pretension. Alex’s brother, Francis (yes, her actual sibling, contrasting... 

THE PAPERHEAD

THE PAPERHEAD
THE PAPERHEAD The Paperhead myspace.com/lookingglasssound When Ryan Jennings, one of three Nashville teens behind the Paperhead, sings “Back to Those Days,” it’s obvious just which days he’s talking about. The trio’s debut flashes unabashedly back to 1968, its swimmy, fuzzy guitars and amorphous song structures evoking such psych-rock classics as the Third Bardo’s “I’m Five Years Ahead of My Time.” Because Jennings and his cohorts... 

GLEASONS DRIFT

GLEASONS DRIFT
GLEASONS DRIFT Blythe Township Mellencamp gleasonsdrift.com Power-pop isn’t solely the purview of city slickers in skinny ties. The members of Gleasons Drift are more beard-and-flannel types, so it’s fitting that on their third album they deliver big riffs and bigger melodies with a backwoods twang befitting their native Pottsville, Pa. At their catchiest the songs recall ’70s-era NRBQ. When frontman Bill Whalen really gets going, singing about... 

SIMS

SIMS
SIMS Bad Time Zoo myspace.com/sims On his sophomore album, Minneapolis hip-hopper Sims celebrates successes personal (“LMG”) and professional (“Good Times”), while still finding plenty to get riled up about. Taking full advantage of producer Lazerbeak’s plethora of sounds—horn samples, reggae riddims and even noodling electric guitar—the MC born Andrew Sims blasts materialistic mainstream rappers and modern consumer culture. He’s a... 

SHANNON MCNALLY

SHANNON MCNALLY
SHANNON MCNALLY Western Ballad shannonmcnally.com On “High,” the second song on her 11th album, Shannon McNally recalls watching a red prairie sunrise. Amid shimmering, ghostly guitars, she admits, “I was just a little bit high.” That confession could account for about half of Western Ballad, which finds her and collaborator Mark Bingham cranking up the reverb and creating a cool, spooky sound they call “psychedelic Americana.” “Toast,”... 

GREG TROOPER

GREG TROOPER
GREG TROOPER Upside-Down Town gregtrooper.com Singer and songwriter Greg Trooper goes slumming on the Upside-Down Town track “They Call Me Hank,” sung from the perspective of a luckless wino—but for much of his 10th album, he’s king of the barroom, the leader of the band. Backed by guitar, electric piano and a warmly whirring organ, Trooper makes sweet Saturday-night music: country, rock, soul and blues, all doled out in equal measure. Trooper... 

LIFEGUARDS

LIFEGUARDS
LIFEGUARDS Waving at the Astronauts robertpollard.net Ohio-born Robert Pollard has released music under various pseudonyms during his long and storied career. But regardless of what it says on the album cover, the music within tends to sound a lot like Guided by Voices, the indie-rock institution he founded in the early ’80s and masterminded for more than two decades. Lifeguards is a collaboration with onetime GBV guitarist Doug Gillard, who wrote... 

RICHARD X. HEYMAN

RICHARD X. HEYMAN
RICHARD X. HEYMAN Tiers/And Other Stories richardxheyman.com Whether it was intended as such or not, Tiers/And Other Stories stands as the ultimate test of Richard X. Heyman’s songwriting prowess. As the forward slash in the title suggests, this is two albums in one—and all told, an ambitious 31-track concept piece chronicling Heyman’s life since meeting Nancy Leigh, the woman who would become not just his wife but bass player and engineer. Best... 

ROY ORBISON

ROY ORBISON
ROY ORBISON The Monument Singles Collection [Monument/Orbison/Legacy] BOX SET Now that vinyl has made its comeback, why not mono? Stereo sound vanquished its single-channel predecessor decades ago, but some stubborn souls never stopped touting the merits of mono—its punch, its clarity and the fact that for music made through the mid-’60s it was the dominant format and therefore the truest reflection of the artists’ intent. The Beatles, for... 

THE GRASCALS & FRIENDS

THE GRASCALS & FRIENDS
THE GRASCALS & FRIENDS Country Classics With a Bluegrass Spin [Cracker Barrel] The Grascals share a wealth of individual and collective experience in the bluegrass world, and it shows on this masterfully rendered set of covers populated by marquee guests. Opening with a faithful take on Buck Owens’ signature “Tiger by the Tail,” with Brad Paisley contributing the lead vocal and Kent Wells wailing on electric guitar, the Grascals prove once... 

TEDDY THOMPSON

TEDDY THOMPSON
TEDDY THOMPSON Bella [Verve Forecast] Teddy Thompson thanks someone named “Bella” in the liner notes for his new release—but if she is indeed the record’s inspiration, whoever she may be, it sounds like she’s been causing him endless grief. Bella is fixed on the down side of love: the difficulty of finding it, the ease of losing it and the heartbreak it leaves in its wake, accompanied by regret and unblinking self-recrimination. Thompson... 

NORTH MISSISSIPPI ALLSTARS

NORTH MISSISSIPPI ALLSTARS
NORTH MISSISSIPPI ALLSTARS Keys to the Kingdom [Sounds of the South] Swampy, soulful and drenched with bottleneck blues, North Mississippi Allstars take their cue from a distinctly Southern musical tradition. It’s hardly surprising, considering that two of the band’s members, Luther and Cody Dickinson, were sired by legendary Memphis producer Jim Dickinson, a man who helped shape an archetypical regional style. So when the band convened with guests... 

BRUCE COCKBURN

BRUCE COCKBURN
BRUCE COCKBURN Small Source of Comfort [True North] One might think that by album No. 24, even a singer-songwriter with Bruce Cockburn’s undeniable gifts might have nothing new to say. And there have been times in recent years when it would have been fair to wonder just that: 2005’s all-instrumental Speechless was hardly what Cockburn does best, and 2009’s live solo Slice O Life was, well, just another live album. Small Source of Comfort, though,... 

BUDDY MILLER

BUDDY MILLER
BUDDY MILLER The Majestic Silver Strings [New West] Despite a long run of stellar albums as a solo artist and with his wife, Julie, Buddy Miller’s reputation as super sideman to artists like Robert Plant, Emmylou Harris, Shawn Colvin, Patty Griffin and others tends to overshadow his own work. He has it both ways on his star-studded latest, enlisting top-shelf guitarists Bill Frisell, Marc Ribot and Greg Leisz for some adventurous reworking of classic... 

BRAD MEHLDAU

BRAD MEHLDAU
BRAD MEHLDAU Live in Marciac [Nonesuch] Brad Mehldau’s restlessness is as much a force of nature as his musicianship, so it comes as no great shock that the master jazz pianist follows last year’s double-disc quintet recording Highway Rider with another double album (plus DVD), this time solo. Mehldau is an explorer, in his compositions, his playing and—to the delight of his loyal flock—his eclectic choice of cover material. The music he interpreted... 

COWBOY JUNKIES

COWBOY JUNKIES
COWBOY JUNKIES Demons: The Nomad Series, Volume 2 [Latent/Razor & Tie] Beloved Athens, Ga., songwriter Vic Chesnutt took his own life last year, leaving behind a quirky, richly poetic body of work that dazzled fans and made his songwriter peers shake their heads in awe. On this striking covers disc, Cowboy Junkies achieve the near-impossible feat of framing Chesnutt’s songs in more palatable settings while preserving the off-kilter beauty and... 

ANNA WARONKER

ANNA WARONKER
ANNA WARONKER California Fade [Five Foot Two] Anna Waronker fronted alt-rock darlings That Dog during the ’90s, which scored hits like “Never Say Never” before breaking up in 1997. Her long-awaited second solo album shimmers like the sun setting on the Pacific, as she crafts a lush, introspective indie pop sound that often brings to mind Aimee Mann (as on the fragile, soul-searching “How Am I Doing?”). Waronker’s outlook, however, offers... 

THE DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS

THE DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS
THE DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS Go-Go Boots [ATO] Like Colonel Sanders’ chicken, Patterson Hood’s songwriting is a testament to the power of a good formula. The lead Trucker tends to write about doomed Southern schemers—victims of fate, folly or some combination of the two—and he introduces yet another cast of Dixie miscreants on the band’s ninth album. Most are dark, desperate characters; Hood devotes two whole songs—the title track and “The... 

CONCERT FOR GEORGE

CONCERT FOR GEORGE
CONCERT FOR GEORGE [Rhino] BLU-RAY The home video presentation of 2002’s all-star salute to the late George Harrison offers a case study in the difference between a great concert and a great concert movie. Both the original DVD release and this lovingly rendered new Blu-ray rendition include two discs: the first featuring the complete show presented in chronological order, and the second offering the film as it was seen in theaters. The concert... 

MIDDLE BROTHER

MIDDLE BROTHER
MIDDLE BROTHER Middle Brother [Partisan] Middle Brother’s eponymous debut affirms the fact that three voices, three acoustic guitars and a wealth of solid songwriting can prove just as mesmerizing as a high-gloss production, lavish pyrotechnics and all the stunts and special effects Lady Gaga has in her arsenal. Moonlighting from their day jobs, Middle Brother’s three prime movers—John McCauley of Deer Tick, Matt Vasquez of the Delta Spirit,... 

JOHNNY CASH

JOHNNY CASH
JOHNNY CASH Bootleg Vol. II: From Memphis to Hollywood [Columbia/Legacy] The deluge of Johnny Cash vault material (and endless repackagings) released since he ceased to walk the line on this earthly plane shows no sign of abating. The first set in this “bootleg” series, Personal File, only scratched the surface of the hundreds of demos, outtakes and home recordings accumulated by the man over his lifetime. From Memphis to Hollywood dips into... 
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