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Album Review Playlist: Volume 5

Our Album Review Playlist series takes a random group of new or reissued albums, pulls a single track from each into a playlist, and includes a mini-review for each album. Anything is game, and you'll never know what's coming next. The edition features 12 new albums or reissues for you to check out.




Hayes Carll has delivered my favorite Americana record of 2008 to date with Trouble In Mind. This is the Texas songwriter's third full-length release and his first with a major label (Universal's Lost Highway). His wit-filled lyrics, and delivery are akin to an artist like Steve Earle, but the sound is more traditional country twang. The last track, "She Left Me For Jesus", is a hilarious romp that should not be missed. The album contains 13 originals and one Tom Waits cover, which earns the record extra credit on an already flawless performance.

If a law was passed that said only one company could produce reissues of classic albums I would lobby as hard as I could for Rhino Records. The company has done it again with this fine expanded and remastered reissue of Otis Redding's third album, Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul. The deluxe packaged 2-CD set includes both the original mono and original stereo versions of the record, 18 alternate, live and b-side tracks and excellent liner notes by Rob Bowman.
Along with the Otis reissue above, Rhino Records has also released a similarly packaged 2-CD set filled with bonus material for Love's seminal 1967 album Forever Changes. The album is still not well known among most mainstream rock fans, but music historians and psychedelic-era fans know it as one of the most important and influential records of the late 1960's hippy era. The record is discussed at length at the Rock's Backpages blog here at Yahoo Music.

It goes without saying that sultry, cross-over jazz cut from the same mold as Norah Jones will continue to proliferate -- considering the incredible success Norah has seen. And although there are many artists who pale in comparison, Rosey actually has that special undefinable something... She takes what could be confused for Muzak in the hands of a lesser talent, and turns it into something truly worthy of your ears. File it under "Jazz That Sells".

Bono's charitable work for Africa is well known, not just among fans of the band, but among world leaders and throngs who have been beneficiaries of the good fight he continues to wage. This compilation is a sort of "thank you" from Africa. In The Name Of Love: Africa Celebrates U2  features the music of U2 as remade by some of the African continent's most respected musicians. A portion of the project's proceeds directly benefit The Global Fund.

6. "Black Lungs" - The New Frontiers

From the album Mending page / Search for lyrics
If you like your indie rock more on the accessible side than the arty side, than The New Frontiers Mending is one you should really pick up. It stays grounded  with a plethora of solid melody and stays on the edge of being epic without ever going overboard. This is a band that does not depend on volume, but uses every instrument to maximum effect. I count myself lucky to have stumbled upon this one.

I seems hard to believe that I bought Poi Dog Pondering's debut album almost two decades ago, and it's even harder to think that the band is still going strong, albeit with a different line up. The aptly titled 7 is the band's seventh full-length, and combines Frank Orrall's blissful wanderings with well thought out and perfectly executed arrangements. The quirkiness we have come to love from PDP is still palpable, but all the rough spots have been smoothed into nonexistence. 
8. "Lovin' Arms" - The Wood Brothers

From the album Loaded page / Search for lyrics
The Wood Brothers feature vocalist and guitarist Oliver Wood and upright bassist Chris Wood of Medeski, Martin and Wood fame. John Medeski produced and appears on this record, which is a low key, lovable work of Americana. The brothers wrote the songs in a true collaborative manner after loosing their mother to ALS last year. The melancholy shows up in the songs, but never turns depressing and in fact, it may just leave you feeling uplifted.

9. "Island Groove" - Mickey Hart

From the album Planet Drum page / Search for lyrics
I featured Mickey Hart's latest effort Global Drum Project awhile ago and referred to this record in that review. Well Shout! Factory has recently reissued Hart's Planet Drum, which has the distinct honor of being the first record to ever receive a "World Music" Grammy award. The 1991 album spent an unprecedented 26 weeks at #1 on the Billboard world music chart, and continues to sell as a perennial favorite. Now's a good time to get acquainted if you haven't in the last 17 years.

Absentstar have just released their major label debut titled Sea Trials and it certainly has a good shot at reaping the same commercially successful kudos that bands like Snow Patrol, Keane or even Coldplay have achieved in years past. They have a knack for pulling off the epic dynamic bursts of sound that end up attracting attention and earning placement on major movie soundtracks. Whether that is a good thing I will leave for you to decide.

11. "Who's That?" - LMNO & Kev Brown

From the album Selective Hearing page / Search for lyrics
On Selective Hearing, LMNO teams up with producer Kev Brown, known for his contributions to albums by Jazzy Jeff, De La Soul, Marley Marl, Biz Markie, Raheem De Vaughn, and more, to deliver eleven tracks of solid backpacker hip-hop followed by eleven instrumental versions. The addition of the instrumental versions is notable -- for all you aspiring rappers, let's see what you can do with these tracks.

12. "World Outside" - Dizzee Rascal

From the album Maths + English page / Search for lyrics
Maths+English has been highly anticipated stateside. This is the third LP from Mercury Prize-winning British MC Dizzee Rascal. It reached #7 on UK pop charts last year. Includes four tracks not included on the original release plus an exclusive remix of "Sirens." The record features Lily Allen, the Arctic Monkeys' Alex Turner, UGK's Bun B and the late Pimp C and was named one of Pitchfork's Top 50 Albums of 2007.

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