Review: Lots o’ New Stuff
As usual, the new album racks fill up between SXSW and Record Store Day next weekend … and there is a lot of good new stuff out there. So let’s get right to the best:
J. Geils Band frontman Peter Wolf hasn’t put out a studio set since 2002 but with the new Midnight Sessions he turns back the clock with a collection of excellent songs ranging from the elegaic rocker “The Night Comes Down (For Willy DeVille)” to the delicate acoustic ballad “The Green Fields of Summer.” The album swerves from loose, Rolling Stones-flavored rockers like “Tragedy” (a duet with Shelby Lynne), Americana ear candy like “Always Asking For You” and love-man funkiness with “Overnight Lows” and a cover of the Lou Donaldson classic “Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky.” In addition to Shelby Lynne, guests include Neko Case and Merle Haggard. Highly recommended.
Listen: “Tragedy” by Peter Wolf w/Shelby Lynne
At one point on Women + Country, Jakob Dylan sings “Everybody’s Hurting,” and he is talking about an America that’s been shaken down to the roots – namely the common hard-working Americans who can’t see a future for themselves and their loved ones. On this album Dylan visits the America that was most vividly depicted by the Band so many decades ago, and the music (produced by T-Bone Burnett, in the style of the Plant-Krauss masterpiece Raising Sand) lends the songs a ghostly, dreamlike quality. But lest you think this is all depressing stuff, “Lend A Hand” assumes a jaunty French Quarter strut and the opener “Nothing But The Whole Wide World” perfectly blends Dylan’s voice with backing singers Neko Case and Kelly Hogan, who drift in and out throughout the album. This album has really grown on me, and you should give it a chance to grow on you too.
Listen: “Everybody’s Hurting” by Jakob Dylan
Although they’ve never exactly been big superstars (or critic’s darlings, for that matter) the BoDeans have nevertheless been on the scene for nearly a quarter decade, dependably turning out their jangly country-rock songs. Mr. Sad Clown, their 10th studio album since 1986, feels like a bit of an assembly-line product although some songs poke through the fog. “Stay,” the opening song, took me by surprise when I realized Kurt Neumann was imploring his little daughter not to grow up so fast and “Easy Love” shows off the quirky singing of Sammy Llanas. A few too many of the songs on the album seem like throwaways or cookie-cutter copies of earlier triumphs. Which would make this album a masterpiece for BoDeans fans, more of the same for more casual listeners.
Listen: “Say Goodbye” by the BoDeans
The eponymous solo album from flamboyant rock guitarist Slash (Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver) is my pick for the No. 1 rock party album of this summer. Slash enlists a number of guest vocalists (Ozzy Osbourne, Kid Rock, Iggy Pop, etc.) and guest players (Dave Grohl, Izzy Stradlin, etc.) and the effect is something like the TV game show “Rock Star.” But the playing is impeccable, and many of the songs do rock – highlights include Lemmy Kilmister’s vocal turn on “Doctor Alibi” and Fergie’s effective screaming on “Beautiful Dangerous.” Get a premium edition if you can, one that features the bonus remake of “Paradise City.”
Listen: “Watch This” by Slash w/Dave Grohl and Duff McKagan
Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings traffic in retro soul, spinning the classic soul sound of the 1960s-1970s on a modern turntable. Their newest album I Learned The Hard Way gives us more of the same: “Mama Don’t Like My Man” evokes the Atlantic Records sound of Lavern Baker, while the title track motors through Memphis (Stax) on its way to Motown. Sharon Jones is an awesome singer, and these songs are great but the album leaves me a little cold for some reason. I got the impression I was listening to an NPR special or something on the “old music” instead of something new, original and vital.
Don’t forget – April 17 is Record Store Day. Go out and buy some vinyl!