If heaven seems a little warmer, it's because Alex Chilton is writing lovely melodies for the celestial choir. And if hell seems globally cooler, it's because The Stooges are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Contemplating that reality, I consider new CDs from Bettie Serveert, Goldfrapp & Gregory, Joe Bonamassa and Mose Allison, plus a new DVD version of 'Blank Generation.'
When Drive-By Truckers hit the studio early last year, the Alabama-via-Athens sextet was fresh from a couple of experiences that would have a profound effect on their next album, 'The Big To-Do.' The Truckers had been on a long road trip supporting their last album, 2008's stripped back and Country-flavored 'Brighter Than Creation's Dark,' and had just recently wrapped up the whirlwind sessions that produced Booker T's Grammy-nominated 'Potato Hole album.'
If you're going to Austin for South By Southwest, have a fantastic time, drink several dozen Shiners for me and enjoy some great music. I'll be doing the same thing here, missing SXSW again, but I'll be largely sober, rested and coherent. And I won’t be having as good a time as you. Damn it. Instead, I'm listening to new releases from Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Frightened Rabbit, Miles Kurosky, Jimi Hendrix, Ted Leo, Aloha and This Moment in Black History.
John Hiatt has been pursuing his Roots Rock direction for so long now it's sometimes difficult to remember that he started off in a Folk/Pop vein in the early '70s, which morphed into a tough/tender New Wave angle later in the decade and into the '80s. But like any decent gunslinger, Hiatt never forgets how many bullets he has left, and his chambers are packed full on 'The Open Road,' the 19th studio album of his long and storied career.
Will Kimbrough has earned a deserved reputation as a songwriter's songwriter, but it's an honor that has tended to overshadow his equally impressive work as a performer of those songs. His latest solo album, 'Wings,' has him doing what he's always done, which is write great songs and perform them with a quiet elegance.
Throughout Peter Gabriel's long career he's been considered one of Rock's most startlingly original artists. He's always been among the leaders in an industry that often succeeds by way of pack behavior. That's why it might seem strange to think of him covering other artists' material across an entire album, as he does on his latest, 'Scratch My Back.' Strange until you hear it, of course.
Sade's first new album in 10 years is the sterling Pop effort 'Soldier of Love.' Other than the biting and percussive title cut, which still goes down like well-aged scotch, this new collection could very easily pass for the follow-up to 'Diamond Life' nearly 25 years ago. Sade's voice and her band's expertise have aged beautifully, with a smokier and jazzier finish.
Broken Teeth isn't exactly a household name, but the Texas quintet has been cranking out blistering Hard Rock for well over a decade and inspiring comparisons to the genre's best known and, perhaps more to the point, biggest selling proponents, so it begs the question: Why aren't these guys huge? They're not reinventing the wheel on their fifth full-length, 'Viva La Rock, Fantastico!,' but they're most assuredly putting the rubber to the road from start to finish.
Patty Griffin's voice lies somewhere between Emmylou Harris's crystalline Country beauty and Bonnie Raitt's Blues-fried rasp, giving her a perfect instrument to interpret the largely Black and Southern Gospel tracks on her new album, 'Downtown Church.' It was recorded in a Presbyterian church in Nashville that once claimed Andrew Jackson as a congregate, and Griffin sang the songs from the church's pulpit.
Mark Oliver Everett doesn't feel the slightest hesitation about baring his soul, whether in his old persona of A Man Called E or in his better-known sonic disguise as Eels. And Everett's particular genius is in the casually devastating manner that he attaches his well-worn heart to his plainly visible sleeve, making it painfully and beautifully universal.
There are few singer/songwriters who can make melancholy and alienation as gorgeous and powerful and appealing as Freedy Johnston. His gifts were readily apparent on his 1990 debut, 'The Trouble Tree,' and were almost impossibly strengthened on his 1992 sophomore album, the indescribably wonderful 'Can You Fly.' After nine long years, Johnston has finally returned to the studio with brand new songs.
In some circumstances, a solo project from a hot band's lead vocalist might signal a little trouble in paradise, but Clap Your Hands Say Yeah frontman Alec Ounsworth merely seems like a restless creative spirit that can't be contained by a single outlet. 'Mo Beauty' was recorded with producer Steve Berlin in New Orleans, and while the bulk of the material was already written, the album bears the unmistakable mark of The Big Easy, from the loping syncopation to the second line backbeat to the general booze-in-church atmosphere.
Richard Lloyd's story on its own is pretty compelling — his membership as guitarist in Rocket from the Tombs and Television, his solo career, his session work with Matthew Sweet — but the tale Lloyd spins on his latest solo album, 'The Jamie Neverts Story,' is worthy of a movie script. In a nutshell, the teenaged Lloyd met a young man named Velvert Turner who had started an unlikely friendship with Jimi Hendrix around the time that Hendrix moved to New York. Turner and Lloyd became best friends, Hendrix began giving guitar lessons to Turner and Turner imparted his newfound knowledge to Lloyd.
Snoop Dogg has made his rep in Hip Hop by delivering his gangsta hype in an almost offhand way, perhaps a natural by-product of his blunt intake. He seems equally at ease turning out deep Dub atmospherics and textures, hardcore Hip Hop beats or smooth R&B grooves. Snoop's 10th album, 'Malice N Wonderland,' finds him doing what he's always done best: rounding up a talented slate of producers and performers and putting together a conceptual extravaganza.
Although Drivin' N Cryin' never officially went away, its work over the past decade has definitely taken a back seat to Kevin Kinney's solo career, which has yielded four discs since the band's last full album of new material in 1997. 2003's 'Detroit Rock City' EP signaled renewed activity, but only now are DNC unleashing their first full album in a dozen years, 'Whatever Happened to the Great American Bubble Factory?'.