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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Alt-512's Monthly Album Reviews & Recommendations

Recently started getting some records to preview (and subsequently review) from ReviewShine. Given the amount of records to preview/review from ReviewShine, a full write-up is out of the question. I guess that means that I'll just write up a few records each month (or so, as time permits). So, we gotta start somewhere. And that somewhere is...

The first record up to bat is Kevin Anthony's North Star (buy). I enjoyed the feel of this record. Had a bit of a cajun feel with the snare drums and fiddle starting out with "Hurricane Ike". The second track, more straight up country fare, "Texas Skies" was a bit peculiar to me in that it's a song about leaving Texas (gasp!). I really found the ending odd in that there's an uncertainty about returning to Texas (Anthony now calls Minnesota home). An odd twist on the ages-old theme of loving home and longing to return there. Worth a listen or download of a few songs from iTunes.

The next record that caught my ear was Tim Harwill's The Wander Man Revisited (buy). Harwill's tag on his site is "too folk for country, too country for rock 'n roll." That tagline really sets the tone for his music. The whole time I listened to this record, I was trying to determine who or what it was reminding me of. There are lots of elements, musical and thematic, that remind of a less country version of Merle Haggard or Dwight Yoakam. The thing that it most reminded me of was a full fledged country version of Jimmy Buffett. Imagine if Jimmy Buffett has stayed on his country path and never gone to Key West with Jerry Jeff back when. I imagine it sounds a lot like this. Having just seen Crazy Heart (and listened to the soundtrack), it strikes me that many of these songs would fit right into Bad Blake's catalog. Get this record. For now, I gotta go order Tim Harwill's other records.

While so not well known States-side, Manchester's Buchanan offer a solid piece of traditional country fare with Suit of Lights due out in February. With traditional, straight-ahead classic country of this sort, the comparisons are often obvious. This record lives up to many of those would-be comparisons while at the same time preserving it yet, somehow, without going into too many of the age-old themes. Something about this record really grabbed me in a way that this sliver of OKOM doesn't normally. I particularly enjoyed the history lesson of Jim Todd's Blues. Buy this record.

I'll throw in a few other notes on the new records from Ray Wylie Hubbard, I See Hawks In LA and Adam Carroll & Michael O'Connor.

--If you enjoyed RWH's Growl or Snake Farm records, go get A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment (Hint: There Is No C) (buy).
--I See Hawks In LA's new record Shoulda Been Gold (buy) pulls together some of the bands' best tunes from the last decade as well as several new/unreleased numbers. This is a great record for old fans and new fans alike. It strikes a great balance that old fans will feel like they're getting their money's worth with the remastered and remixed older tunes and of course the new tunes also rock.
--Adam Carroll & Michael O'Connor have a new record out called Hard Times (buy). I caught the streaming version on bandcamp and so can you. This is a really enjoyable record about the denizens of Texas Gulf Coast and the particular kind of people you find there.
--Finally, the soundtrack to the Jeff Bridges film Crazy Heart has some outstanding originals penned by Ryan Bingham, T-Bone Burnett & Steven Bruton. This one is also worth your money.

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