Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Lucinda Williams - Blessed

Some albums have lyrics with an emotional impact, but more often than not, the music impacts me more than the lyrics. So it is always special to find an album that does both.

Then there is Lucinda Williams' new project Blessed , which has great musicianship delivering a Soulful Blues with deep roots. Even More impressively, the lyrics not only affect the listener, they rip their heart open, exposing the deepest part of the soul and speak directly to it. This is not an exaggeration in the slightest, and your first listen to Blessed will prove it. The album opens with "Convince Me", which builds from a quiet question to a Rockin' feeling of hope. The title track demonstrates, in a dramatic way, that we are all Blessed everyday. However, we do not look for blessings, so we miss them as they move right in front of us. Indeed the theme of the album seems to be, that in always searching for more, we discount what we already have. We tend to long for something illusory, ignoring the good in our current reality. When we move on, we are just running away. Running never fulfills, but Williams doesn't pretend to know what does fulfill. She simply provides reflection for the journey. It is odd for an Album to be full of pain, without leading to hopelessness.

The producer of Blessed is Grammy Award-winning Don Was. Was co-produced the project with Eric Liljestrand and Tom Overby. Blessed features special guests Rami Jaffe on keyboards, Matthew Sweet on vocals Greg Leisz and Elvis Costello on guitar. In fact, Costello's guitar work on "Seeing Black" is amazing.

Buy the album on March 1st and see for yourself.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Iron & Wine - first entry out of the gate for Album of the Year

In music like politics early front runners can gain an adavantage. Using the political analogy, I believe Iron & Wine has just won the The Iowa Caucus. Ironically, some loyal fans are rebelling. It seems they never wanted Sam Beam to move away from the introverted, etheral sound, to which they became accustomed.

On Kiss Each Other Clean we discover that Beam's voice has a range that he has never unleashed. He hasn't lost the muted raspy tone of previous efforts. He just shows so much more. The melodies aren't hidden on this album. While it may be a new direction, it moves with the brush strokes of a diverse pallet. From the first listen, it is clear that Kiss Each Other Clean will be a career defining album for Iron & Wine.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Susan James - Highways, Ghosts, Hearts and Home

Susan James has gained a lot of well known fans over the last few years. Bob Weir and Rob Wassrerman heard her, and asked her to open for Ratdog. She has also opened for for Son Volt, Rufus Wainright, Richard Thompson and Lindsey Buckingham among others. 

She has been playing guitar since she was eight. She writes all of her own songs, and with the release of Highways, Ghosts, Hearts and Home, she can now add producer to an expanding list of talents. Much of the album is straightforward country, but she also integrates Ccontemporary Folk, often with a sort of Hippie jam virtuosity. The songs aren't eight minute jams, but the vibe is still the base of certain songs. The guest list is impressive. Three members of I See Hawks in LA play on the album. Gabe Witcher (Punch Brothers) plays fiddle and Danny McGough (Social Distortion) is on the Hammond B3 organ.. 

The lyrics she employs on Highways have basic themes, but the musical arrangement is more complex and layered. James' smooth voice wraps this project into a cohesive package. No doubt a large dose of critical acclaim will follow. The album will be released on February 15th, in stores and online. 

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