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Ed Kowalczyk, Magnolia Mountain, Jimmie Vaughan, Walter Trout and More

0 Comments · Tuesday, July 27, 2010
I move on trying to play catch-up with a mountain of new album releases, with just barely a breath to mention the passings of underground comic author Harvey Pekar and counterculture figure Tuli Kupferberg, co-frontman and songwriter for The Fugs. Let's check out the new albums from Ed Kowalczyk (of Live fame), Magnolia Mountain, Jimmie Vaughan, Walter Trout, Kylie Minogue and The Cat Empire.  

Alejandro Escovedo, Scissor Sisters, Jimmy Webb and Jackie Greene

0 Comments · Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Effusive praise and predictions of imminently wild success have greeted just about every Alejandro Escovedo release for the past 20 years, and it's hard to pinpoint why the Austin-based singer/songwriter still languishes in the realm of cult adoration. The presence of Bruce Springsteen and Ian Hunter on his new album, 'Street Songs of Love,' might attract some of their fan bases who have yet to discover the joys of Escovedo, but the good news contained here is that his power to effect listeners on an elemental level remains stronger than ever.  

Laurie Anderson, Marah, Paul Thorn, Robert Randolph, Wovenhand and Stars

0 Comments · Sunday, July 18, 2010
By way of historical context, Laurie Anderson's last studio album, 'Life on a String,' was released a month before 9/11, largely written and recorded in the earliest months of Bush Lite's first term. On her new album, 'Homeland,' she proves again to be an astute commentator on the state of America (and the world). Even better, Anderson hasn't lost one iota of musical passion and provides an invigorating soundtrack for her fascinating travelogue.   

Cowboy Junkies, Gaslight Anthem, The Pernice Brothers, Tom Petty and Steve Cropper and Felix Cavaliere

0 Comments · Tuesday, July 6, 2010
The latest Cowboy Junkies album, 'Renmin Park,' is something of a beginning for the Canadian quartet that came to prominence with the release of 'The Trinity Sessions' 22 years ago. The circumstances that led to 'Renmin Park,' and the next three Cowboy Junkies albums for that matter, are an almost perfect storm of creative conceptualism and execution.  

Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, Hot Hot Heat, Samantha Crain, Nada Surf and Teenage Fanclub

0 Comments · Wednesday, June 30, 2010
'Grace Potter & the Nocturnals' might turn out to be the band's defining work, a fact the group recognized by titling the album after themselves. In the era Potter and her Nocturnals pattern their work after, this album would signal the deep maturity and understanding of a band with twice as much age and experience. It's no less than astonishing that these sounds are emanating from a band on their fourth trip to the studio.  

Bettye LaVette, Rev. Peyton's Big Damn Band, Widespread Panic, The Melvins, Tift Merritt and More

0 Comments · Tuesday, June 22, 2010
If one needs proof of the existence of a cosmic overmind or benevolent deity, the recent re-emergence of Bettye LaVette should be all the evidence required. Her recent releases have been triumphs of the style she's been honing for four decades, but on her latest abum, 'Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook,' LaVette applies her stunning voice to some of the greatest songs in the Rock & Roll canon.  

Stone Temple Pilots, Smashing Pumpkins, Hank Williams III, David Cross, Hawthorne Heights and Far

0 Comments · Thursday, June 17, 2010
When Stone Temple Pilots went on a less than harmonious hiatus seven years ago, no one could have guessed that they still had one of their best albums ever ahead of them. But the band's new eponymous album not only represents STP's personal best — it could very well be one of this year's defining releases.  

Black Keys, The Sadies, Mary Gauthier, Susan Cowsill and More

1 Comment · Tuesday, June 1, 2010
There are more than a few parallels between the White Stripes and The Black Keys that go well beyond their simple guitar/drums architecture. The Keys have recently embarked on an even odder array of outside gigs than Jack White, including guitarist Dan Auerbach's production duties and excellent, diverse and nuanced solo album and drummer Patrick Carney's new outfit, appropriately dubbed Drummer. Both have hit the road in support of their new albums in full band configurations. They also entered into a collaboration with rapper Jim Jones called Blackroc. All of this, plus Carney's recent divorce and relocation to Brooklyn, had a direct impact on the direction The Black Keys took on its latest album, 'Brothers.'  

The National, Hoodoo Gurus, Kris Kristofferson, Sage Francis, Otis Taylor and Marco Benevento

0 Comments · Monday, May 24, 2010
Before I push on to this week's album reviews, I feel compelled to add my condolences to the many thousands being offered in the wake of Ronnie James Dio's passing. As a teenager discovering FM radio in the '70s, I came across a sound one night that was unlike anything I'd heard before: blazing hard rock guitars, thundering bass, hall-of-the-mountain-king drumming and, rising above it all, that soaring, otherworldly voice. The DJ announced it as a song from the new Elf album, and I had a new favorite band. His later work with Rainbow and the resurrected Black Sabbath cemented Dio's place in music history.  

The New Pornographers, Josh Ritter, Paul Weller, Tonic, Walter Schreifels and Greg Laswell

0 Comments · Thursday, May 13, 2010
A.C. Newman should be studied by science in an attempt to discover the secret of his dual creative successes as the primary spark plug for The New Pornographers and as a solo artist. The Porns' fifth album, 'Together,' continues the band's unparalleled string of studio excellence while furthering the concrete-instrument-and-arrangement approach of 2007's baroque Pop and inexplicably misunderstood 'Challengers.'  

Peter Frampton, Hole, Jesse Malin, Caribou and More

0 Comments · Wednesday, May 5, 2010
With 'Thank You Mr. Churchill,' his 14th studio album, Peter Frampton returns to the peak with a vengeance as the guitarist storms from strength to strength, elevating his songwriting and his playing with equal passion and precision. I'm also looking at new album releases by Courtney Love and Hole, Jesse Malin, Gogol Bordello, Pack A.D. and Caribou, plus a new DVD tribute to Frank Zappa.  

Roky Erickson, Apples in Stereo, Ozomatli, Shelby Lynne and Matt Pond PA

0 Comments · Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Another week, another teetering pile of releases to consider. I've already run seriously short on time again for this posting due to accumulating deadlines and last-minute assignments from a variety of sources. Good for my bottom line, bad for my schedule. This week I'm checking out new CDs from Roky Erickson, Apples in Stereo, Ozomatli, Shelby Lynne, Sweet Apple and Matt Pond PA.  

Jeff Beck, Earl Greyhound, Carrie Rodriguez, Coheed & Cambria, Kaki King and Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers

0 Comments · Monday, April 19, 2010
On 'Emotion & Commotion' iconic guitarist Jeff Beck maps out a musical territory he's grown increasingly fond of charting over the past few years, namely the intersection between his fiery Blues roots and his airy Jazz branches. The twist on his first album of new material in seven years is the occasional accompaniment of magnificently bombastic orchestrations and vocals provided by the incomparable Joss Stone, Imelda May and Olivia Safe.  

Jakob Dylan, John Butler, BoDeans, Rebel Montez, David Byrne/Fatboy Slim, Sharon Jones & and the Dap Kings, Martin Sexton and More

0 Comments · Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Jakob Dylan has certainly traveled an interesting path over the past decade and a half. The first hurdle to clear was the almost insurmountable impact of his famous surname and the inevitable comparisons that would be drawn between his work and that of his impossibly legendary father. But on his sophomore solo effort, 'Women and Country,' Dylan stacks the deck in his favor with producer T Bone Burnett and a band skilled at creating music dripping with atmosphere.  

Joan Armatrading, Barenaked Ladies, She & Him, Frank Black, Holly Golightly and Scott McKeon

0 Comments · Monday, April 5, 2010
Because my feelings for Joan Armatrading's work are deeply woven into my personal history, I know the difference between a good and a great Armatrading album. I know that her ballads are best when they retain a sense of the power and intensity that she unleashes on her uptempo songs, which in turn are strengthened by her impeccable sense of delicacy and grace. That's a pretty good description of Armatrading's approach on her latest album, 'This Charming Life.'