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Album Reviews
Sunday, Jan. 25, 2009

Radiolarians 1 (MRI)

Medeski Martin & Wood, by now everyone's favorite organ trio, continues their venture into pluralistic weirdness on Radiolarians 1, an attempt to turn the write, record, tour chronology on its ear. Starting with nothing but song sketches, MMW fleshed out their latest effort in front of audiences on tour, before finally returning to the studio's confines to hit "record." If the process sounds like driving backward during rush hour, so do much...
Album Reviews
Monday, Dec. 15, 2008

Party Intellectuals (Pi)

Hats off to Marc Ribot for releasing perhaps the two most disparate back-to-back albums in history. February gave us Exercises in Futility, a solo, new age/classical, acoustic pluck-work with noodling of the likes to make Leo Kottke blush. Now the guitarist returns with Party Intellectuals, an offering from his self-proclaimed "first rock band since high school." In what sounds like a name borrowed from...
Books
Monday, Nov. 10, 2008

The horror of Katrina

With a prominent list of post-Katrina works-Douglas Brinkley's The Great Deluge, Michael Eric Dyson's Come Hell or High Water and especially Spike Lee's When the Levees Broke-having already laid solid ground for analysis and posterity, a fictional attempt at reconstruction seems benign at best, exploitative at worst. The sheer pathos of the storm's effects captured by Lee on film, almost to the point of being unwatchable, says enough to make any lessons-learned fable seem almost petty by comparison. James Lee Burke may have pulled it off best in The Tin Roof Blowdown, using Katrina as a backdrop for a mystery/thriller that delves into the city's woes of racial tension. Even in this case, however, the aura of fabrication makes...
Album Reviews
Monday, Nov. 10, 2008

Skin Deep (Silvertone/Zomba)

Billed as Buddy Guy's first album of all-original material (with producer/percussionist Tom Hambridge sharing co-writing credits), Skin Deep throttles along like most of the guitarist's later-period work-pristine production backing barbed-wire jags of distorted riffs, and boastful jabs ("Show Me the Money") punctuating meditative 12-bar shuffles. Per custom on such affairs, there are the usual suspects...
Album Reviews
Friday, Oct. 10, 2008

I, Flathead (Nonesuch)

  Ry Cooder's California trilogy started purposefully and thematically with Chavez Ravine, turned old-time-radio wistful on My Name is Buddy, and now takes a complete header into the deep end for the concluding I, Flathead. Assuming the point of view of Western bar band Kash Buk and the Klowns, Cooder opens with "Drive Like I Never Been Hurt...
Album Reviews
Monday, Sept. 22, 2008

All I Intended To Be (Nonesuch)

  A true elder stateswoman of country music, Emmylou Harris returns with her first album since 2006's Mark Knopfler collaboration, All the Roadrunning. On the nostalgic All IIntended to Be, Harris once again borrows buddy/superstar power for an updated bout of rustic shoe-gazing, Nashville-style.  Dolly Parton and Vince Gill contribute backing...
Album Reviews
Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2008

From the Reach (Landfall)

Incendiary slide-master Sonny Landreth cut his teeth and forged his way among John Hiatt's backing group The Goners in the late 1980s and '90s. And now, close on the heels of his former frontman's back-looking Same OldMan, Landreth offers one of his own reflective works of middle-aged pondering. Unlike Hiatt's effort, though, From the Reach borrows the guitarist's native post-Katrina sadness ("Blue Tarp Blues"), offers a number of superstar...
Album Reviews
Monday, July 21, 2008

Seeing Things (Columbia/Starbucks Entertainment)

With the Wallflowers on hiatus, the band's frontman, Jakob Dylan—who happens to be the result of rock's greatest romance in Bob and Sara—attempts to find his own identity among the usual route of hushed obscurities and loosely finger-picked acoustic guitar. Seeing Things . . .
Album Reviews
Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Same Old Man (New West)

Along with the album’s country-leaning roots rockers, listeners of Same Old Man get a bit of the bittersweet, ripened wisdom of John Hiatt, whose voice registers somewhere between Philip Roth's aged sentimentality and Saul Bellow's caustic remembrances as he reflects on a life in love . . .
Album Reviews
Tuesday, July 8, 2008

City That Care Forgot (429)

Ever since his debut, 1968's Gris-Gris, there's never been a question about the exact source of Dr. John's sound. Now, though, three years after Hurricane Katrina, his amicable growl seems more poised than ever to be a musical/social/political voice for New Orleans. While City That Care Forgot isn't a likely catalyst for sweeping change, or even a musical high-water . . .

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