Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Frequent Spins (2011.1)

Gregg Allman - Low Country Blues
The former Allman Brothers lead singer's first solo effort in 14 years caught me by surprise, despite the fact that there's no real groundbreaking material here. It's just that, I didn't expect he was going to hop on the Robert Plant bandwagon of classic rock artists making comebacks in their 60s. Actually, Plant was just short of his 60th birthday when he teamed up with Alison Krauss on Raising Sand in 2007, but you get my point. Allman's latest is a little truer to the style he's known for than Plant's recent output. Regardless, this is a very pleasing no nonsense blues-rock album that reminds me that, not only did Allman influence the Drive-By Truckers, he probably also had a little positive effect on the sounds of The Black Keys.

The Decemberists - The King is Dead
After their forays into prog-rock that began with The Crane Wife, and continued in full force on The Hazards of Love, The Decemberists tone things down considerably on the rootsier The King is Dead. Three of the band's five members dipped their toes into the Americana genre last year, with Black Prairie's Feast of the Hunters' Moon, so this turn should come as little surprise to anyone. The King is Dead is nowhere near as dark as that effort, however, and Colin Meloy's decidedly non-countryish voice actually makes the album sound fresher than most in this genre. And then there's Gillian Welch, who, according to a Paste magazine review, "...(plays) Nicolette Larson to Meloy's Neil Young" on seven tracks. A better choice for accompaniment the Decemberists could not have made.

Iron & Wine - Kiss Each Other Clean
I've read comparisons between Sam Beam's latest and Sufjan Stevens's effort from last year, but this album isn't quite as experimental as the latter. Still, it's a significant departure from his lo-fi beginnings, i.e. 2002's The Creek Drank the Cradle. To me, it's also the first time that Iron & Wine has fully lived up to the lofty expectations I had for him following the release of the aforementioned debut almost a decade ago. Somewhat contrary to the "experimental" moniker, there have also been numerous comparisons to a '70s pop-rock sound. I'm not sure if it's what said reviewers had in mind, but I hear Traffic at certain points, and I'm definitely not complaining.

Smith Westerns - Dye it Blonde
I haven't really heard the description psychedelic power pop used all that often—I guess you could use it in reference to a band like MGMT—but that's what I'm calling this band of Chicago kids who have not yet reached legal drinking age. On Dye it Blonde, they churn out a pretty impressive array of Beatles-meet-T. Rex hooks, which are tempered slightly by vocals that remind me of a more upbeat version of the Skygreen Leopards. If that description confuses you—and I can't say that I blame you—all you have to do is click the little play button below for one-minute previews of each of the album's songs.

Abigail Washburn - City of Refuge
Béla Fleck is Abigail Washburn's husband, so I guess that makes her the second-best banjo player in the family, although she certainly holds her own in that regard. Clawhammer banjo is what Washburn is primarily known for, but it's her vocals that also stand out on this album, with the warmth of her voice sometimes reminding me of Rosanne Cash. That's a quality that might sound like it would be out of place on songs that mine the territory of neo-Appalachian folk, but that's not the case on City of Refuge. Add a few Andrew Bird-esque moody string arrangements, and you've got an extremely pleasing listen. But, don't take my word for it...

No comments:

Post a Comment