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Album Reviews
Monday, April 7, 2008

Bushwhack (Bushwhack Entertainment)

Dream Theater and Porcupine Tree rank among the most common reference points for progressive metal in the early 21st century. Serious and technical, yet still melodic, both veteran bands have proven that complex music can find an audience—if not always mainstream acceptance. Now along comes Bushwhack, an all-instrumental quartet of college students from New Haven, Conn., that picks and chooses influences from Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree and other modern progressive
Album Reviews
Monday, April 7, 2008

Secrets of the New Explorers (Independent)

The six sparse and spacey songs on Secrets of the New Explorers by Glen Phillips (the former frontman for ’90s alternative-popsters Toad the Wet Sprocket) could land this sonic astronaut some new fans. With low-fi guitars, minimal percussion and dreamy vocals, Phillips explores space travel and the mysteries of the solar system. The strongest cut here, “Solar Flare,” even invokes
Album Reviews
Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Ilembe: Honoring Shaka Zulu (Gallo/Heads Up International)

Ladysmith Black Mambazo unites native South African musical traditions with Christian sentiment and political context. It makes sense that the country’s premier vocal group would record an album honoring the iconic warrior Shaka Zulu. But instead of glorifying violence—Zulu imbued South Africans with an indomitable fighting spirit in the early 1800s—Ilembe (“The Greatest Warrior”) celebrates perseverance and commitment. By incorporating its signature a cappella harmonies and tongue clicks into a collection of songs that reference Zulu’s beliefs and practices . . .
Album Reviews
Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Iraq (United For Opportunity Music)

War may be hell, but Black 47 makes it rock. On Iraq, veteran Irish renegade Larry Kirwan and his band of pacifists attempt to conquer the current war with a song cycle of previously released and new material. The punchy melodies are Black 47’s best in years, as uilleann-pipe-fuelled rock, reggae, folk, jazz and traditional Irish music collide in a rewarding protest record.
Books
Wednesday, March 19, 2008

(University of Wisconsin Press), edited by Jerry Hembd, Jody Pad

The next time you wish you lived anywhere but here, pick up Renewing the Countryside-Wisconsin, read a few pages and change your mind in a hurry. These 39 short pieces, written by several different authors and complemented by stunning fullcolor photography, profile hardworking individuals, organizations and businesses in the state that are blazing trails in sustainable and organic agriculture, environmentally responsible business practices and homegrown . . .
Album Reviews
Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Secret Paths (Witchwood Media)

Earlier this year, Dave Cousins—lead vocalist for England’s longtime progressiverock/folk outfit The Strawbs— entered the studio with pedalsteel guitarist Melvin Duffy to record a CD that he could support on his current U.S. “Stories and Songs Tour.” The result is Secret Paths, which is only Cousins’ third proper solo album since 1972. Because it lacks a full band, the 11-song disc isn’t nearly as lively as 2007’s The Boy in the Sailor Suit. But Cousins wraps his Mark-Knopfler-meets-Nils-Lofgren
Concert Reviews
Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2008

Feb. 15, 2008

Their hair may be grayer and the musicians backing them may have changed, but Sam Llanas and Kurt Neumann remain the heart and soul of The BoDeans. With uncanny harmonies and a dynamic electric/acoustic-guitar tandem, the duo with Waukesha roots has survived record-label politics, an ugly management lawsuit and industry indifference. And Friday night at the sold-out Potawatomi Bingo Casino’s Northern Lights Theater—joined by keyboardist Bukka Allen, bassist Eric Holden and drummer Noah Levy—they proved that age and time have only strengthened them. Still, a new BoDeans album of impressive jangly (and sometimes dark) roots rock produced by recent Grammy-winner T-Bone Burnett, is slated for release on March 4, and a 12state tour kicks off a week later in Texas.
Album Reviews
Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2008

The Lost One (Skybucket Records)

The “lost one” that Barton Carroll refers to throughout his third solo album is really several people: a young German girl who survived the Soviet occupation of Berlin, for example, or a misinformed lover. But it could just as easily be the singer/songwriter himself, whose sorrow, sensitivity and selfeffacing wit make these dozen songs a bittersweet symphony of slide guitar, fiddle, harmonica and bassoon.
Album Reviews
Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2008

Red Planet Boulevard (Think Tank Media/ProgRock Records)

After releasing nearly a dozen solo albums (and making numerous guest appearances on other artists’ records), it’s fair to say that California-based singer Lana Lane has established her own distinct voice. Unfortunately, more listeners overseas have probably heard that voice than here in the United States . . .
Concert Reviews
Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2008

Jan. 30, 2008

Left for dead a decade ago, the progressive-metal band Queensryche has spent the ensuing years reinventing itself. Post-grunge records, a covers disc and a sequel to 1988’s seminal concept album Operation: Mindcrime all entered the fray, as the arena stalwarts became accustomed to smaller . . .