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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: Charlie Robison, Spinal Tap and more...

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, June 21, 2009

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Charlie Robison, “Beautiful Day” (DualTone) ***

Where do broken hearts go? If they belong to good songwriters, then right into the music — and the result can be a moving, seminal album (Bob Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks,” anyone?). Texas troubadour Charlie Robison’s heartbreak came with the break-up of his nine-year marriage to the Dixie Chicks’ Emily Robison, which was part of the reason it’s been five years since his last release. He makes up for lost time on the ironically titled “Beautiful Day,” a powerful and immediate collection whose 10 songs offer a streamof-consciousness kind of trip chronicling the emotional roller coaster he’s been on — and seemingly without fear of recrimination on the next Dixie Chicks album. More rocking than Robison’s usual fare, “Beautiful Day” is a deceptively buoyant collection that doesn’t diss his ex nearly as much as it tracks his mood swings, though in the upbeat “Feelin’ Good” he laments that “I had an angel/And she promised she’d deliver/Gonna save my soul/Then she left a hole” before resolving that “I’ll just play a tune/Freedom’s comin’ soon.” “Reconsider” is a gentle-toned heartbreaker, while “Yellow Blues,” “If the Rain Don’t Stop” and “She’s So Fine” mix country and rock conventions together and Bobby Bare, Jr.’s “Nothin’ Better to Do” is a rowdy stomper about “two parasite hearts co-existing.” Aided by musical pals such as guitarist Charlie Sexton, fiddler Warren Hood and accordion specialist Bukka Allen, Robison closes things with a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Racing in the Street,” which despite its mournful tone indicates the road will go on, with better things ahead and some pretty good songs left behind. Robison’s pain, in other words, is his listeners’ gain.


Spinal Tap, “Back From the Dead” (The Label Industry/A2M)***

Spinal Tap is a bit more of a legend than a band, of course — a mythical metal outfit conjured up for a film that’s managed to develop a life of its own. “Back From the Dead,” the first Tap album from the comic trio (Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer) is a compendium of sorts, featuring studio recordings of the live songs from the “This is Spinal Tap” film, a funked-up, horn-fueled take of “Sex Farm,” a reggae version of “(Listen to the) Flower People,” three segments of the “Jazz Oddyssey” odyssey and several new songs — including the bluesy “Short and Sweet,” which is neither but features cameo guitar work by Def Leppard’s Phil Collen, John Mayer and Steve Vai. It’s all wickedly funny and clever, and the elaborate package’s bonus DVD only adds to the Tap experience.

New & Noteworthy:

Alexisonfire, “Old Crows/Young Cardinals” (Vagrant): The Canadian hard rockers return to active duty after group member Dallas Green’s latest sojourn with his side project City and Colour.

The Cliks, “Dirty King” (Tommy Boy): The Toronto

trio issues the follow-up to

its buzz-generating debut, “Snakehouse.”

Deastro, “Moondagger” (Ghostly International): The

electronic artist from Sterling Heights delivers his first-ever full-band album.

Dinosaur Jr., “Farm” (Jagjaguwar): The original

Massachusetts trio stays reunited for a dozen-song set

of arty, indie guitar rock.

Dream Theater, “Black Clouds & Silver Linings” (Roadrunner): There’s plenty of pomp to spare on

this American prog group’s latest, with four of its six songs weighing in at more than 12


Kurt Elling, “Dedicated To You: Kurt Elling Sings the Music of Coltrane and Hartman” (Concord Jazz):

The title says it all as the jazz vocalist teams with saxophonist Ernie Watt to pay homage to the 1963 duets of John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman.

Evans Blue, “evans/ blue” (Sounds+Sights): The Toronto rock quintet’s third album marks the debut of new singer Dan Chandler.

Patterson Hood, “Murdering Oscar (and other love songs)” (Ruth St.):

The Drive-By Truckers leader started work on this solo album more than four years ago — partly as an excuse to record with his father, the Muscle Shoals bass great David Hood.

Michael Johns, “Hold Back My Heart” (TRP): The Season 7 “American Idol” finalist rolls out his debut while the Season 8 fires are still hot.

The Lemonheads, “Varshons” (The End): Evan Dando and company’s latest is an oddball covers collection featuring songs by Gram Parsons, Leonard Cohen, Wire, Townes Van Zandt and G.G. Allin, among others.

Bob Marley, “B is For Bob” (UMe/Island/Tuff Gong): Ziggy Marley helmed this kid- and family-friendly reworking of his late father’s music, mining the vaults for alternate vocal tracks and other cool Rastaman vibrations.

John Mellencamp, “Live Death LIVE and Freedom” (Hear Music): An eight-song concert set recorded during the

heartland rocker’s 2008 tour.

Eugene McGuinness, “Eugene McGuinness” (Domino): The 23-year-old British singer-songwriter brings a full-length debut to follow-up his well-received 2008

EP “The Early Learnings Of...”

Native Window, “Native Window” (StarCity): The

Kansas lineup, sans singerkeyboardist Steve Walsh,

debuts with bassist Billy Greer taking over on vocals.

Paulina Rubio, “Gran City Pop” (Universal Music Latino): The latest from the Mexican pop singer — the No.

2-selling Latin female artist behind Shakira — follows two previous No. 1 debuts on Billboard’s Top Latin Albums


Soundtrack, “I Love You, Beth Cooper” (ABKCO): Songs by Alice Cooper, Gym Class Heroes, the Hives, Smokey Robinson, Kiss, OK Go and others rub elbows with each other on the companion to Chris Columbusdirected comedy.

Otis Taylor, “Pentatonic Wars and Love Songs” (Telarc International): The roots music specialist brings

in guitarist Gary Moore, jazz pianist Jason Moran and his

own daughter, Cassie, to help on these ruminations about

love on the ropes.

Voivod, “Infini” (Relapse): The Montreal metal

icons’ latest, produced by former Metallica bassist Jason

Newsted, features the last songs written by late guitarist

Dennis “Piggy” D’Amour.

Pete Yorn, “Back and Fourth”(Columbia): The rock

singer-songwriter traveled to Nebraska to work on his fourth album with Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes, as well as a full, hand-picked band.

Alexander Zonjic, “Doin’ the D” (Heads Up International): The flutist and Smooth Jazz radio host goes worldwide on his latest album, with a guest list that includes Kenny G, Rick Braun and the Motor City Horns as well as a cover of the Guess Who’s “Undun.”

From the Vaults

Isaac Hayes, “Hot Buttered Soul” (Stax).

New Music DVDs

“Rockers” (MVD Visual); Various Artists, “John Lennon & the Plastic Ono Band Live in Toronto ’69”

(Shout! Factory).

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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