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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: Derek Trucks Band, Glasvegas and more...

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, January 11, 2009

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The Derek Trucks Band, “Already Free” (Legacy) ***1/2

Derek Trucks and company kick off their sixth studio album with a cover of “Down in the Flood,” one of the best tracks from Bob Dylan and The Band’s landmark “The Basement Tapes” album. It’s gutsy — but nobody has ever accused Trucks of being anything but. He’s the youngest member of the Allman Brothers Band, after all (he’s drummer Butch Trucks’ nephew), and he spent part of 2006 and 2007 as part of Eric Clapton’s group. So Trucks is used to heady company, and its influence is all over “Already Free,” the most focused and carefully crafted of his own band’s six studio albums. But Trucks isn’t merely aping styles; instead he stirs together a blend of Southern rock, blues, American rural roots music and a bit of gospel (though much less jazz this time) that’s entirely his own, signed on each of the 12 songs by his distinctively fluid slide guitar licks. “Down in the Flood,” then flows along a swampy groove flavored by Jew’s harp and acoustic guitar. Grateful Dead fans will hearken to the loose feel of tracks such as “I Know” and a remake of the Dan Penn/Spooner Oldham tune “Sweet Inspiration,” while “Maybe This Time” (one of two songs sung by Clapton cohort Doyle Bramhall II), “Don’t Miss Me” and “Down Don’t Bother Me” conjure the Southern soul of Muscle Shoals. Trucks’ wife, Susan Tedeschi, lends a hearty lead vocal to “Back Where I Started,” and Mike Mattison, Trucks’ regular singer, reaches some new highs of his own, unencumbered by having to compete with the long instrumental excursions that have marked the previous Trucks band albums. Some, in fact, might lament the brevity of these tracks, but rest assured that it makes for a better listening experience — and there’s certainly plenty of room for each of them to grow in concert.


Glasvegas, “Glasvegas” (Columbia) **

This Scottish quartet’s buzz band’s debut album is something of a downcast affair, with frontman James Allan intoning that “there’s a storm on the horizon” and dense, gauzy music that recalls the shoegazer likes of My Bloody Valentine and the Jesus and Mary Chain as much as the anthemic ambience of Coldplay, Radiohead and Echo & the Bunnymen. The treacly guitars of “Geraldine” and the wash-of-sound in “Flowers and Football Tops,” “S.A.D. Light” and the single “Daddy’s Gone” contain some aural candy for the headphone and ear bud set, but there’s a dour sleepiness here that’s neither original nor terribly invigorating.


Bang Camaro, “Bang Camaro II” (Black Sword): The Boston group of video game fame delivers a second album of anthemic, glamstyled rock sung by “choirs” of up to 20 vocalists.

The Bee Gees, “Odessa: Deluxe Edition” (Reprise): The 1969 album by the brothers Gibb is re-released as a three-CD set featuring different mixes and 22 bonus unreleased tracks, alternate takes and demos.

Big Shanty, “Sold Out ...” (King Mojo): The bluesman, who mixes Mississippi Delta riffs with dance club beats, welcomes Col. Bruce Hampton and guitarists Spencer Kirkpatrick of Hydra and Liz Melendez as guests on his third album.

Crooked X, “Crooked X” (EMI): Coweta, Okla., is home base for these hard rockers, whose debut is getting a boost from the MTV reality special “Start a Band, Rock the World.”

El Goodo, “Coyote” (Grease): The Welsh quintet continues its psychedelic ways on its sophomore album.

Fires of Rome, “You Kingdom You” (The Hours): The debut album from the New York City art rock trio.

The Gourds, “Haymaker!” (Yep Roc): The experimental roots quintet from Austin dubs its members “Well Read-Necks” on its ninth album.

Ken Hatfield and Friends, “To Be Continued” (mPub Music): Hatfield and company play songs by Bill McCormick, a jazz composer whose own playing career was cut short by a debilitating shoulder injury.

(Hed)pe, “New World Orphans” (Suburban Noize): The California heavy rock quintet gets playful on its eighth album, issuing three versions of the set, each with different covers and bonus tracks.

Late of the Pier, “Fantasy Black Channel” (Astralwerks): The British quartet releases its international debut after honing its chops, and its reputation, at the West London’s taste-making club night Way Out West.

Maus, “Lark Marvels” (Pretty Blue Presents): The debut full-length from the San Francisco sextet whose off-beat arrangements have been compared to Captain Beefheart and even Kraftwerk.

Erin McCarley, “Love, Save the Empty” (Universal Republic): Songs from the Texas singer-songwriter’s debut album have already been featured on episodes of TV series such as “Grey’s Anatomy,” “One Tree Hill” and “Kyle XY.”

Nebula, “Peel Sessions” (Sweet Nothing): This collection of BBC sessions from 2002-2004 showcases the trio lineup responsible for the Los Angeles stoner rock group’s lauded first two albums.

Alecia Nugent, “Hillbilly Goddess” (Rounder): The country/bluegrass singer — no relation to Ted, by the way — stretches out as a songwriter on her third album, co-writing two of its 11 tracks.

Joshua Redman, “Compass” (Nonesuch): Jazz saxophone prodigy Redman stays on the trio path for using two different drummers to explore the format’s parameters.

Satyricon, “The Age of Nero” (Koch): The Norwegian headbangers came across the pond for their seventh album, recording in Los Angeles with producer “Evil” Joe Baresi (Tool, Queens of the Stone Age).

Soundtrack, “Notorious” (Bad Boy/ Atlantic): The companion album to the new Notorious B.I.G. film bio features new songs by Jay-Z and Jadakiss as well as hits and unreleased demos from Biggie himself.

Rokia Traore, “Tchamantche” (Nonesuch): The Malian musician and songwriter’s second album — and first in more than five years — includes a cover of Billie Holiday’s “The Man I Love” alongside her original compositions.

Various Artists, “8 Songs to Die For” (Primary Wave) and “8 Themes to Die For” (Primary Wave): Ministry, Walls of Jericho and Bleeding Through are among the bands contributing to these two digital soundtracks to “Horrorfest III: Eight Films to Die For.”

Various Artists, “Heart & Soul — Celebrating 50 Years of Motown” (Hallmark Gold Crown): The greeting card maker jumps in on the Detroit label’s golden anniversary (see story, Page A1) celebration with this 10-song set of no-brainer hits.

Varsity Fanclub, “Varsity Fanclub” (Capitol): The Los Angeles pop quintet has already been tagged by Mylie Cyrus, who made its “Future Love” a favorite on her YouTube page. With an endorsement like that, who needs critics?

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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