Ho ho motherhumping ho. How did we get to December? And Christmas? And 2011? Holy crap on a communion cracker, are the years shrinking along with the economy? That felt like 10 months to me, tops. Maybe less. C'est la vie. Let's check out some new albums.
It's been a while, boys and girls. Sorry for going dark — it's been a wild
November, what with the mid-term elections, a trip to Michigan and the excellent Music CEAs event. Let's check out new releases from Elvis Costello, The Greenhornes, Rory Gallagher, Kanye West, Jimi Hendrix, The Russian Futurists and The Sights.
It's only taken a month, but I think I'm catching up after the onslaught that was the 2010 MidPoint Music Festival. In some ways, the reduced number of releases and shows over the next couple of months is something of a blessing as it allows time for reflection on the year gone by in the runup to 2010-in-review coverage. This week I check out new work from some veteran musicians: Elton John, Leon Russell, Marshall Chapman, Liz Phair, Bryan Ferry, Iggy Pop, James Williamson and Johnny Clegg.
It's difficult for me to retain any semblance of journalistic objectivity when it comes to The Sundresses. My first exposure to their special brand of madness was at my first South By Southwest in 2004, which happened to be the band’s first SXSW, as well, and only their eighth or ninth out of town gig at that point. In 45 sweat-soaked minutes, The Sundresses reordered my musical universe and won me over completely. Perhaps it's fitting then that the new Sundresses album, 'Sundresses Off,' is a live offering that showcases the band's performance gifts with the visceral wallop that can only be achieved in front of their amps.
Ronnie Wood has long been associated with some of the biggest names in Rock, from Jeff Beck early in his career, Rod Stewart and The Faces soon after and The Rolling Stones for the past 35 years. For his first studio album in eight years, Wood stacks the deck with guests like Z.Z. Top guitarist Billy Gibbons, Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder, ex-Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan and icons Kris Kristofferson and Bobby Womack, among many others.
It's no stretch of the definition to anoint Bad Religion's Brett Gurewitz and Greg Graffin as godfathers of the American Punk movement. The trick has been to sustain their level of sonic energy and activist passion across three decades, maintaining their integrity, relevance and every-other-year release schedule. Amazingly, Bad Religion has done exactly that since their 1981 debut, a string that continues with their 15th album, 'The Dissent of Man.'
Kevin Barnes might not be on a par with Neil Young or David Bowie, but he's no slouch in the reinvention department. Over the past decade and a half, Barnes and Of Montreal (his rotating cast of musical provocateurs) have evolved from the conceptually edgy Baroque Pop brilliance of their early work with the Elephant 6 collective to a song structure more directly influenced by The Beatles and The Kinks to their current Funktronica flavored direction.
When it comes to 'Flamingo,' the new solo effort from Killers frontman Brandon Flowers, rules don't seem to apply. A solo album generally appears well into a band's existence, but here is Flowers putting his name above the title just seven years after The Killers' debut album.
Exactly how much more praise can we lavish upon Richard Thompson before his head explodes? How many more times can we hail his fluidity and invention as a guitarist in both acoustic and electric
settings, his elegant brilliance as a songwriter, his honey-with-a-double-bourbon-chaser voice and his almost supernatural consistency before he turns into a pile of ash like a not-at-all-teenaged vampire? Well, let's give it one more shot, because Thompson's latest album, 'Dream Attic,' is (take a deep breath, everyone) fantastic.
Any band's sophomore album is a natural evolutionary talking point and generally regarded as proof of the old musical adage that a band takes its whole life to make its first album and nine months to make the second. In the case of Ra Ra Riot, the evolution is more complex and tragically steered. Three years ago, the Syracuse, N.Y., sextet was riding high on an intense media buzz after glowing reviews for their eponymous six-track debut EP, but the ride came to an abrupt end when drummer/lyricist John Pike drowned in the midst of what should have been a triumphant tour.
From rowdy '70s Punkish Pop stomper to '80s heartland rocker to '90s Americana bard to new millennium Folk provocateur, John Mellencamp has reinvented himself admirably over the past 30-plus years, albeit without the big picture importance, durable creativity or stylistic range of Bob Dylan, David Bowie or Neil Young. With the dangerously titled 'No Better Than This,' he teams up with dusty producer du jour, T Bone Burnett, to craft a mono masterwork steeped in '50s Rockabilly and '60s Folk.
The massively talented Los Lobos formed in 1973 and shot to prominence with their magnificent debut, 'How Will the Wolf Survive?.' The band has been answering that title question for the past quarter century, oblivious and impervious to prevailing trends, making the music they love for a multi-cultural audience that loves them for it. On their latest, 'Tin Can Trust,' Los Lobos continues making a brilliant hybrid sound that is unmistakably their own.
If there was any justice, the panties thrown at Tom Jones these days would be the size of parachutes. The fact is that Jones, who turned 70 in June, has built an audience populated with the granddaughters of his original fans. His latest album, 'Praise & Blame,' is a collection of traditional and contemporary songs concerning the search for salvation.
For her seventh studio album, '100 Miles from Memphis,' Sheryl Crow takes a page from the Shelby Lynne handbook and returns to her southern Midwest roots for an album full of vintage Soul/Pop sounds. Horns, crystalline back-up singers and slinky rhythms dominate, but Crow wisely weaves the Soul thread into her existing and highly successful Roots Rock tapestry.
If great press translated to negotiable currency, Tommy Keene would have Bill Gates for a personal assistant and pay him weekly out of petty cash. He's been called a potential star so many times, NASA has photographed him with the Hubble telescope. Find the proof on 'Tommy Keene You Hear Me: A Retrospective 1983-2009' (the title being an allusional pun on the seminal Rock opera by The Who, one of Keene's biggest avowed influences).