We're veering toward the middle of the year's fourth quarter--a time when nearly every week brings us a handful of new releases that will instantly emerge at the top of the charts and make everybody but us fabulously wealthy!
And sure, some weeks will bring us inevitable No. 1's like rapper T.I. or Metallica, or hot new contenders like Jennifer Hudson or Robin Thicke. On the other hand, however--some weeks won't!
Perhaps signaling a temporary lull in the inevitable sales storm is this week--which aside from heartwarming country hat-wearer Kenny Chesney, offers little today's top record execs can write home to their moms about!
But you know what? It's OK! Look at the bright side: There are a lot of new TV shows debuting, a lot of great new DVDs also out this week, and now, lots of time to spend combing today's hottest social networks looking for old friends and new acquaintances! You could also read a book, but heck: they're expensive! Oh well!
Kenny Chesney: Lucky Old Sun (BNA) Country fave KC throws his ever-present hat in the ring this time out with a hot collection of tracks featuring guest stars such as Dave Matthews, Willie Nelson, the Wailers and Mac MacAnally, and it looks like he's got another surefire winner! Ironically selecting the same title track chosen by former Beach Boy Brian Wilson to highlight his new album--but I assure you that's the only less-than-original idea to be had here--Chesney seems to be looking leftward during these exciting political times, at least if the album cover picture is any indication! For a while my favorite track was "Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven (with The Wailers)" until I realized the words in parentheses weren't actually part of the lyrics, but who knows? It may well be yours! I'm just thrilled with the whole thing!
Keane: Perfect Symmetry (Interscope) Following up a huge debut album with one not quite so successful could be a stumbling block for bands of lesser talent, but England's Keane return here with a winningly melodic, choice third album that I'd call "keen" if, like you, I enjoyed bad puns! One thing's for sure: My notion of them as a sugar-sweet, almost sappy poppish band changed significantly, in light of the upbeat, energetic tracks found here in great number! Additionally, I think any English band with a member named Tim Rice-Oxley is supposed to be good according to some old rock critic rule or something! And I'm as gullible as the next guy! Between you and me, I should probably focus on my craft more!
Nikka Costa: Pebble To A Pearl (Stax/Go Funk Yourself) A welcome return from Miss Costa, a soulful, zesty singer who made big noise a few years ago and is now back awaiting your purchase, listening, and evaluation! Perhaps chastened by the public humiliation of choosing a title for her last album-- can'tneverdidnotthin'--that was both grammatically incorrect and poorly punctuated, Costa soars admirably throughout most of the tracks here, though luckily for all of us, she apparently held tightly to her microphone! Favorite tracks include "Keep Wanting More," "Keep Pushin'" and "Cry Baby," but that may be a factor of my susceptibility to suggestion! I'd suggest buying this and waiting for additional orders!
Johnny Cash: Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison: Legacy Edition (Columbia/Legacy) Sometimes record labels try to milk everything they've got in their archives by slapping a few additional tracks onto a classic album and selling it all over again, but this is absolutely not the case here! Cash's historic 1968 album is loaded to the gills with superb extras--including both shows the country legend gave that day at Folsom Prison, additional performances by Carl Perkins and the Statler Brothers, and a compelling two-hour film documentary included on an additional DVD. One of the year's best reissues by far; if you can't afford it, please don't steal it, as these kind of things don't happen in jails much these days!
Ray LaMontagne: Gossip In The Grain (RCA) Singer-songwriter Ray LaMontagne is still going strong, and this--his third album--is a step up for him in terms of album sound: There are more players, more textures, and lots more to listen to while admiring his well-crafted, highly emotive songs. Back again with producer Ethan Johns, LaMontagne need only drop the pretentious "La" from his last name--I mean, the Royal "we" is so old school--to become good o' "Ray Montagne" and ascend to the throne of rightly-named singer-songwriter supremacy! And if the cover photograph depicts him telepathically ordering consumers to buy his album, so be it!
Copeland: You Are My Sunshine (Tooth & Nail) Some people contend that all the good songs in the world have already been written--just ask Kenny Chesney and Brian Wilson--but it must be pointed out that classic track "You Are My Sunshine" is not actually heard here, it's just--let's face it--a dandy album title! I like what I hear here, but be forewarned: The first time I heard this band, I thought their lead singer sounded like a male version of Christine McVie! This band shows lots of growth, and facial hair is only partially relevant!
Phoebe Snow: Live (Verve Forecast) When I was just out of college I worked at a magazine that specialized in humorous captions! It was great! One day a woman called up and asked me how come she'd been dropped off the complimentary mailing list, and--get this--it was Phoebe Snow herself! She liked the funny captions! So I put her back on the list! From that point forward, I've had nothing but the greatest admiration for Miss Snow--so I'd like to point out that her new live album, recorded in Woodstock, New York, is a fine assemblage of well-played, well-sung tunes, including her classic hit "Poetry Man," covers of "It's All In The Game" and "Piece Of My Heart," and much more. That said, if her album cover bore an interesting caption--like "The Microphone God was not fooled by Phoebe's false piety!"--it might sell a few more copies in New Jersey!
Ingrid Michaelson: Be OK (Cabin 24) An up-and-coming singer-songwriter who has admirably attached herself to the Stand Up To Cancer organization, Michaelson has assembled this collection of demos, live tracks and cover songs in part to benefit that cause. Word is she's about to launch a "Be OK" tour that will feature a "Be OK" necklace as part of her tour merchandise, the proceeds of which will go to that same fine cause. My advice: Buy the record, promote the cause, but don't give the necklace to anyone named Kay!
Bobbie Gentry: Ode to Billie Joe/Touch 'Em With Love (Raven Australian import) Though I try not to write about CDs issued outside this country--it's, like, not patriotic--the fact that this album is available domestically via MP3 download has opened the floodgates! Containing the first and fifth albums by this marvelous and unique singer-songwriter--born in Chickasaw County, Mississippi, no less!--this package is a great collection featuring Billie Joe's title track, the very surreal "Bugs," other great originals, and an array of covers including "Son Of A Preacher Man," "Niki Hoeky," and "You've Made Me So Very Happy." Historic note to Beatle haters: Ode To Billie Joe knocked Sgt. Pepper's off the top of the album charts! She probably laughed evilly when it happened! What more could you ask for?
Connie Talbot: Over The Rainbow (AAO) An astounding vocalist with a big, big voice, Talbot seems destined for an enormously successful career! And hopefully budding singers will take note that an excessive number of facelifts often reaps unexpected results!
- Kenny Chesney
- Jennifer Hudson