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The Listening Room: Ronnie Dunn, All Time Low and more...
Kix Brooks’ name appears nowhere in the acknowledgements for Ronnie Dunn’s first-ever solo album — and that says something. Oh, not about the duo’s relationship; we know they weren’t bosom buddies when they called it quits last year, even after 20 years and 30+ million album sales together. Mostly, “Ronnie Dunn” is the un-hatted half of Brooks & Dunn reclaiming his individuality and, in doing that, tapping into his past, reaching back to the somewhat innocent pre-fame days when he was just a “Singer in a Cowboy Band.” As in those days, Dunn spends this 12-track set “mixin’ up the fast with the slow ones” — although it’s the latter that really provide the showcase for Dunn’s resonant, rich voice. He’s in a romantic mood on songs such as the aching “Your Kind of Love” and the ringing and redemptive “Once,” while the moody “Bleed Red” deals with a more universal kind of love and “I Just Get Lonely” grapples with separation. Best of the lot, however, is “Cost of Livin’,” a wrenching ballad about a desperate but dignified military vet touting his own virtues as he looks for a job. Dunn — who wrote or co-wrote nine of the songs and plays most of the album’s guitar solos — kicks it up a little, too, reconnecting with his roadhouse roots on “Singer in a Cowboy Band” and “Let the Cowboy Rock” and bringing in some horn-fueled Mariachi flavor on “How Far to Waco.” He doesn’t necessarily sound like a new man here, but he certainly shows that after all those years in a partnership he’s a guy who can carry a full album by himself.
All Time Low, “Dirty Work” (Interscope/DGC/Geffen) ★★1/2
It’s not easy for punk rockers to grow up. For its fourth album, this Baltimore quartet, so fresh-faced when it debuted in 2005, has signed with a major label and worked with a corps of hitmaking producers — including R&B auteur The-Dream — for a set that’s polished and mature but clearly misses the spunk of the group’s previous releases. Frontman Alex Gaskarth’s cheeky humor still infuses tracks such as “Do You Want Me (Dead)?,” “Time-Bomb” and “That Girl,” while the Beatlesy, acoustic-guitar led “A Daydream Away” is convincingly mature. But mostly “Dirty Work” is a case where bigger does not equal better, and we’ll gladly trade the new slickness for a little more heart next time out.
New & Noteworthy
Adelita’s Way, “Home School Valedictorian” (Virgin): The Las Vegas hard rockers’ sophomore album includes one song, “I Want to Be,” co-written with Theory of a Deadman’s Tyler Connolly.
Arctic Monkeys, “Suck It and See” (Domino): The edgy and still youthful British quartet hit Los Angeles to make its fourth studio album.
Battles, “Floss Drop” (Warp): The experimental rock group’s second album includes contributions from Gary Numan and Kazu Makino from Blonde Redhead.
Bedouin Soundclash, “Light the Horizon” (Pirates Blend): The globally minded Toronto band recorded its groove-y latest album, originally released digitally in October, with Philly DJ/producer King Britt.
Black Lips, “Arabia Mountain” (Vice): The Atlanta garage punk group’s sixth studio album was co-produced by Mark Ronson (Amy Winehouse, Adele, Duran Duran)
BluGrascal, “Dance ‘Til Your Sockings are Hod and Ravelin’ “ (BluGrascal/Suguaro Road/Time Life): The Grascals return to their bluegrass mode for a second time, covering seven songs made famous on “The Andy Griffith Show” to commemorate its 50th anniversary.
Gary Burton, “Common Ground” Mack Avenue): Vibraphonist Burton introduces the latest edition of his Quartet, spotlighting guitarist Julian Lage.
Tommy Castro, “Presents the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue — Live!” (Alligator): The guitarist is joined by an assortment of killer guests — Janiva Magness, Michael Burks, Joe Louis Walker and more — on this charged concert set.
Chicago Blues; A Living History, “The (R)evolution Continues” (Megaforce): Guests Buddy Guy, James Cotton, Magic Slim and more help out on this collective’s second homage to its home town’s musical heritage.
City & Colour, “Little Hell” (Dine Alone/Vagrant): The third full-length studio set from Alexisonfire’s Dallas Green’s alter-ego other “band.”
Corea, Clarke & White, “Forever” (Concord Jazz): This two-CD live set captures the Return To Forever trio in both acoustic and electric modes, with guest appearances by Chaka Khan, original RTF guitarist Bill Connors and current band violinist Jean-Luc Ponty.
Cults, “Cults” (In the Name of/Columbia): The debut full-length indie pop band reprises two songs, “Go Outside” and “Most Wanted,” from its debut 2010 EP.
Dawes, “Nothing is Wrong” (ATO): The sibling-led Americana quartet from Los Angeles switched from Laurel Canyon to the equally legendary Echo Park for its second release.
Def Leppard, “Mirrorball” (Mailboat): The multi-platinum British rock titans deliver their first official live album, exclusively for Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., “It`s a Corporate World” (Quite Scientific/Warner Bros.): After a successful EP and remix disc, the Detroit duo releases its first full-length album.
Joe Ely, “Satisfied At Last” (Redeye): The veteran Texas singer-songwriter co-wrote two of the songs on his latest solo set with Flatlanders bandmate Butch Hancock.
Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers, “Bride of the Noisemakers” (429): This two-CD live set pointedly excludes Hornsby’s hits in favor of less-celebrated selections from his songbook.
Joe Jackson, “Live Music” (Razor & Tie): The always intriguing Jackson plays his hits and covers of Beatles, David Bowie and Ian Drury tunes with a trio during his 2010 European tour.
Love, “Black Beauty” (High Moon): An unreleased album project recorded in 1973 by the late Arthur Lee and his trippy band of merry men.
Peter Murphy, “Ninth” (Nettwerk): The iconic goth-rock singer’s first solo album in seven years comes after the latest — and he says final — go-round with Bauhaus.
Nick 13, “Nick 13” (Sugar Hill): The Tiger Army frontman veers from rockabilly towards a more melodic Americana path on his first solo album.
Diane Schuur, “The Gathering” (Vanguard): The contemporary jazz mainstay is joined by guests Alison Krauss, Vince Gill, Mark Knopfler, Larry Carlton and Kirk Whalum on this set of 10 classic country song covers.
Duncan Sheik, “Covers 80s” (Sneaky Records/MRI): The Tony Award-winning writer takes on songs by the Cure, New Order, Tears For Fears and other 80s faves, with Rachael Yamagata singing on nine of the 12 tracks.
Simply Red, “Farewell: Live in Concert at Sydney Opera House” (Capitol EMI): Mick Hucknall and company’s goodbye, held in the land Down Under earlier this year, is preserved on this CD/DVD set.
Tedeschi Trucks Band, “Revelator” (Sony Masterworks): The long-awaited first album from the blues-rock-soul group led by Susan Tedeschi and her husband, Derek Trucks.
Randy Travis, “Anniversary Celebration” (Warner Bros.): The baritone country star celebrates his 25th anniversary with help from friends such as Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, Don Henley, Jamey Johnson, Tim McGraw, Carrie Underwood, Willie Nelson and many others.
From The Vaults: Dean Martin, “Cool Then, Cool Now,” “Classic Dino: The Best of Dean Martin” and “Dino: The Essential Dean Martin” (all Capitol/EMI); Depeche Mode, “Remixes 2: 81-11” (Reprise); Iron Maiden, “From Fear to Eternity: The Best of 1990-2010 (UMe)"; Marvin Gaye, “What`s Going On: Super Deluxe Edition” (Motown/UMe); Paul Simon, “Paul Simon,” “There Goes Rhymin’ Simon,” “Paul Simon in Concert: Live Rhymin’ “ and “Still Crazy After All These Years” (all Columbia/Legacy); Frank Sinatra, “Ring-A-Ding Ding” (Concord); Whitesnake, “Live at Donnington 1990” (Frontiers)
New Music DVDs: Elvis Costello, “Spectacle Season 2” (MVD); Sheryl Crow, “Miles From Memphis” (Eagle Rock); Primal Scream, “Screamadelica Live” (Eagle Rock)
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