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Album Reviews
Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009

Already Free (Victor)

No one enters a song like Derek Trucks. Understated and refined, with his own band or as a guest, playing a cover or an original, from the very first note of slide riffage there is never a "who is that?" moment on a Trucks recording. All the things that make the guitarist so distinct-that immaculate tone, Eastern tinge, precise frenzy and pure Empathy-are back...
Album Reviews
Thursday, Feb. 12, 2009

OH (ohio) (Merge Records)

While nearly impossible to describe without the perfunctory "sleepy" label, Lambchop seems especially well settled into their languid leanings on OH. From the gentle pull of an "oh, oh, ohio" that leads into the title track, there's less of everything big-electric, strings, piano balladry-that the band has used since 2001's Nixon, and much more of their well-worn, old-shoe country warmness...
Album Reviews
Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2009

Peace Queer (MRI)

"Lately, my friends have been telling me that my songs have gotten more and more opinionated," says Todd Snider, struggling to explain himself on Peace Queer. Sure the romantic that normally populates Snider's musical landscape of Mellencamp-esque Americana seems to have suddenly found CNN, yet this isn't a complete departure from the "alright guy" that fans originally found so amusing. After all, Snider follows the clarification...
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...

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