For her seventh studio album, 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 '100 Miles,' 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. This two-disc package is a chronological core sample of much of Keene's recorded history.
In the brief liner notes for this album, Dweezil Zappa (eldest son of Frank Zappa) explains that the lengthy guitar solos he plays on some of the songs are combinations of his father's work and his own improvisational inspirations, all of it filtered through Dweezil's interpretations of Frank's distinctive and quirky technique.
There aren't many albums that can be described as both contentious and tragic, but this Danger Mouse/Sparklehorse collaboration certainly fits that slim category. The tragedy is that Sparklehorse frontman Mark Linkous and guest vocalist Vic Chesnutt both committed suicide before the album's official release.
With a catalog that's almost ridiculously littered with excellence, Alejandro Escovedo's latest album is a continuation of 2008's 'Real Animal,' as legendary producer Tony Visconti helms the boards and Escovedo collaborates with songwriter Chuck Prophet once again, with the trio The Sensitive Boys creating a similarly inspired set.
This is a new album in the most liberal sense of the word; there's only one new song in the set list, with the rest of the album comprised of numbers from Jimmy Webb's oft-visited songbook. The hook is the fresh Country/Bluegrass/Folk arrangements of some of his most familiar songs and the presence of superstar duet partners.
Laurie Anderson's last studio album, 'Life on a String,' was released a month before 9/11, but given the fact that she's been touring steadily since, it's clear that she hasn't really been away. But 'Homeland' seems like Anderson's dark, dramatic and welcomed return to a diminishing musical society of essential cultural narrators.
On his ninth album, 'Pimps and Preachers,' Paul Thorn gets extremely autobiographical, particularly on the title track, a literal examination of his unorthodox upbringing. It's easy to see where Thorn gets the characters for his songs; he's the most colorful one of them all.
Over the past decade, Robert Randolph has gone from the obscurity of playing pedal steel guitar in House of God church services in his native Florida to being named one of Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time on the basis of just two albums and a rigorous touring schedule. On 'We Walk This Road,' Randolph continues to blend hymns of praise and songs of contemporary import.
In most respects, 'Renmin Park' exhibits all of the sonic touchstones that have defined the Cowboy Junkies for the past two and a half decades, starting with Margo Timmins' ethereally weary voice. The subtler difference is the album's conceptual nature.
On Gaslight Anthem's third full-length album, Brian Fallon and the band expand their sound and scope beyond familiar Springsteen-fronting-the-Replacements moments, pushing their envelope into new and completely appropriate areas.
'Goodbye, Killer' is a wide-ranging and completely satisfying album, a brilliantly stripped back set that's certainly not a philosophical departure from anything in Joe Pernice's increasingly great body of work.
This album might turn out to be the band's defining work, a fact they recognized by titling the album after themselves. In the era that Potter and her Nocturnals pattern their work after, the Classic Rock '70s, this album would signal the deep maturity and understanding of a band with twice as much age and experience.
Teenage Fanclub turns 21 this year, and it almost seems appropriate to begin thinking of the Glasgow jangle Pop outfit in terms of adulthood. On their first album in five years (the longest gap between albums in their history) TF largely returns to the sound that defined it a decade or more ago with some obvious maturation.
Hot Hot Heat's evolution has been an ongoing process since the band formed within the insular Punk community on Vancouver Island in 1999. The band built its own studio, and the complete lack of label restraint might well be the defining quality of their fifth album, 'Future Breeds,' as the newly refurbished quartet careens along with the giddy abandon of its earliest work.