Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Patty Loveless - Dreamin' My Dreams


With the release of this her 14th album Patty Loveless builds on the legacy she has built over the years with quality country music. In an age of big hats, big bands and big sounds, Loveless maintains a rich country sound superior to mainstream Nashville artists. Dreamin' My Dreams focuses on Loveless's well toned voice and her ability to elicit emotions from the listener. Loveless' selection of 12 songs was chosen from a myriad of writers, notably Tony Arata, Jim Lauderdale, Lee Roy Parnell, Steve Earle and Delbert McClinton. The albums opening number "Keep Your Distance" showcases Loveless's high lonesome sound, but it is the bluegrass numbers "Big Chance" and "Never Ending Song of Love" that enables the Kentucky native to shine. With Dreamin' My Dreams Loveless has attained a level of comfort with her music, a comfort that liberates the essence of the song.

Jim Boggia - Safe In Sound

Blue Hammock Music

Where is Jim Boggia? Who is Jim Boggia? After listening to Jim Boggia’s Safe In Sound several times it becomes clear that Boggia isn’t even sure where and who he is as a musician. A student of pop and rock music, Boggia is talented as a musician but even more so at mimicking the style and sound of others. Eventually you feel as though he wrote each song after listening to songs by other artists. "Final Word" could easily have been an Elvis Costello tune, "Show My Face Around" has a heavy John Lennon feel to it, while "Where’s The Party" and "Let Me Believe" sounds like cuts left off of the Beatles Magical Mystery Tour. "Shine," "Live The Proof," "Underground" and "Made Me So Happy" also beg the question "Where have I heard that song before?" The final cuts on Safe In Sound - "Slowly" and "Supergirl" are just simply boring. Before Boggia journeys to the studio again he needs to journey and find his identity as a musician, once he does you’ll discover a great artist.

Tish Hinojosa - A Heart Wide Open

Valley Entertainment

Hinojosa's is a voice that enriches the air - soft and feathery, harmonious alongside the exquisite instrumentation. A Heart Wide Open, Tish Hinojosa's first studio CD since 2000 is an album full of longing and reflection. Her deeply introspective songwriting reflects a woman in love with the images and ideals of her youth and of a woman who has seen pain in life but refuses to yield to its melancholy.
The light Caribbean flavored "Never Say Never Love Again" leads off the album with its bi-lingual lyrics. A wistful call for the by-gone days of social activism is the theme of "Whatever Happened To Everyone Wanting To Care," followed by the reflective "The Kitchen Table." Hinojosa also examines the lonely plight of a forgotten veteran in "Blue-Eyed Billy" and the life of a performer always on the road in "Shotgun Ridin'."
A Heart Wide Open is a beautiful testament to one of America's truly gifted singer-songwriters.

The Tremors - Scourge of the South

Brain Drain Records

Raw, visceral and alive with energy, the Tremors manifest the sex, drugs and booze vibe that defined rock-a-billy in its heyday. This bad-boy trio out of North Carolina is on the leading edge of a resurgent rock-a-billy movement and Scourge of the South captures the uninhibited intensity of a Tremors live act. Like the Sun Studios artists of the fifties who birthed the sound, the Tremors sing and play with abandon.
Eleven of the thirteen cuts on Scourge are Tremors originals. Guitarist and lead singer Jimmy Tremor’s vibrato vocals are perfectly suited for the genre though his incessant "hiccupping" throughout the album does become old. Still he gives standout performances on "100 Proof Blues Boogie," and "Rockin’ All The Time." Slim Perkins on stand-up bass gives added dimension with backing vocals on "Manifestation." Stretch Armstrong’s splendid work on drums keeps each song hoppin’ and drivin’. The greasers of yore would be proud of this neo-retro rock-a-billy trio.

Nickel Creek - Why Should The Fire Die

Sugarhill Records

Nickel Creek is on the edge with their latest release Why Should The Fire Die? Taking apart conventional bluegrass instrumentation and harmonies the trio from California reassembles them in an unconventional way. The resulting album is pleasing while at times flirting with the avant garde. Often the only resemblance to bluegrass is the mandolin or fiddle.
Each cut on the album is like an exploration into differing genres. "When In Rome" leads off with its Celtic overtones and paves the way for "Somebody More Like You" that carries a 'Beatles-esque' sound and simplicity. "Scotch and Chocolate," an instrumental, sounds like classical music on an acid trip. Meanwhile, "Best of Luck" comes across like the B-52's punk group at a bluegrass festival.
Listening to the album a second and third time I realized the reason I enjoyed it so much was because it sounded like an album of "the other cuts" - the songs between the hits on old vinyl albums of the 70's and 80's - a welcome change to radio hit oriented albums.

Cherryholmes - Cherryholmes

Skaggs Family Records

Cherryholmes’ eponymously titled fourth album is a difficult album to listen to. Difficult because it seems almost incomprehensible that only five short years ago half of this bluegrass sextet (the three youngest) didn’t even play an instrument. Difficult because the youngest, 13 year old fiddle player Molly Cherryholmes contributed with co-writing "Coastline," a fast paced instrumental. Difficult because just this year the group beat out Alison Krauss, Del McCoury, Doyle Lawson and Rhonda Vincent for Entertainer of the Year award at the International Bluegrass Music Awards. Cherryholmes is also a delight. It never tries to forge a new musical path or re-invent bluegrass. Instead it relies on solid musicianship and quality vocal ability. By infusing Irish dirges ("Shelly In The Heather") with a cappella covers (Jimmy Martin’s "Who Will Sing For Me?") and classic country (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s "Workin’ Man - Nowhere To Go"), Cherryholmes has created a well-balanced and grounded album.

Rob Jungklas - Arkadelphia

Madjack Records

The music of Rob Jungklas is a haunting immersion into a world of religious metaphors and iconography. Arkadelphia is a blues-laden, heavy piece of musical art that exposes Jungklas as a deep-thinking and reflective man who is constantly seeking out the nuances of life and trying to make sense of it all. Seemingly, Jungklas pours out his soul with this album. While each song is worthy of merit by itself, Arkadelphia collectively is without blemish. "Engine of Vengence," a first person account of a man hanged when his secret affair with a woman is discovered, is a dark tale of frightful unforgiveness. "God Rode Through Clarksdale" evokes a disturbing image of God out to settle the score. Take away his magnetic voice and sullen despondent lyrics and the music can stand on its own, at times sounding like Deep Purple meets Muddy Waters. Jungklas’ slide guitar work is purposefully distorted to create a foreboding atmosphere on an album that is not to be overlooked.

Pieta Brown - In The Cool

Elegant in simplicity and poetic in delivery, In The Cool presents an uncompromising forcefulness of blues and honky-tonk driven tunes all written by Pieta. Pieta manages to pick you up out of your easy chair and put you on a barstool nursing a beer. Her blues laden vocal delivery swelters like the heat of a hot city sidewalk after the sun goes down.
The albums opening track, "#807" is like looking at a slice of life from a third story tenement. "In The Cool" has an ingratiating groove that relies on Pieta's slide guitar work, giving it a heavy honky-tonk sound. The drug themed "I Don't Want To Come Down" is tempered by the heart warming "This Old Dress," the story of a home-spun dress "that my momma gave to me."
Pieta, who is the eldest daughter of Grammy nominated singer-songwriter Greg Brown, has crafted a album worthy of acclaim.