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CD Reviews:
The Listening Room: Chieftains, Sinead O'Connor and more...

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Monday, February 20, 2012

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The Chieftains

"Voice of Ages"

Hear Music


The Chieftains have been down this road a few times during their 50-year career -- a gathering of all-star friends and helpers for an album combining traditional Celtic fare and complementary originals. And when it's this good, we're not getting tired of it at all. Co-produced by group leader Paddy Moloney and Grammy Award-winner T Bone Burnett, "Voice of Ages" brings the veteran Chieftains together with the new breed of indie rockers, Americana and even country artists for collaborations that go down as smooth and easy as a pint of honeyed stout. It's certainly a good time to have Grammy Best New Artist Bon Iver as a guest, and the Chieftains have no trouble supporting his characteristically airy take on "Down in the Willow Garden." The Civil Wars, meanwhile, add a little of the group's magic on their own "Lily Love," while Lisa Hanagan turns in a positively beautiful vocal on the ethereal "My Lagan Love," the Secret Sisters lay tight sibling harmonies on "Peggy Gordon" and Miranda Lambert and Pistol Annies feature on a slightly melancholy "Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies." Those looking to kick up their heels, however, are also well-served by the disc, including Imelda May's rowdy "Carolina Rua," the Carolina Chocolate Drops' "Pretty Little Girl," the Punch Brothers' jiggy "The Lark in the Clear Air"/"Olam Punch" medley, the Decemberists' lively "When the Ship Comes In," the swirling instrumental Lundu with Carlos Nunez and the nearly 12-minute jam "The Chieftains Reunion." The album even puts the group "in space," jamming with NASA astronaut Cady Coleman from the International Space Station, but if that seems a bit gimmicky you can rest assured that the rest of "Voice of Ages" celebrates a spirit of true creative connection.


Sinead O'Connor, "How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?" (One Little Indian): ***

After some crazy texting about her sex life and an oddly abortive marriage, Sinead O'Connor is making headlines again. The nice thing about her periodic album releases, however, is that they remind us why we even care about her in the first place. Her ninth set of new songs is another work of original exceptional talent, filled with evocative insights, heartfelt confessionals and provocative position statements -- including a couple of songs responding to the 2009 Murphy Report about child abuse in her native Ireland's Catholic school system. A cover of John Grant's "Queen of Denmark" is engagingly nasty, but O'Connor is mostly in good humor here, starting softly and ultimately carrying a big, rocking stick on tracks such as "I Had a Baby," "Old Lady" and "The Wolf is Getting Married."

New & Noteworthy:

Eric Brandt, "The Long Winter" (House of Mercy): The third solo album by the Urban Hillbilly Quartet member features many of his bandmates as well as members of Romantica, Cafe Accordion Orchestra and others.

Buckethead, "Electric Sea" (Metastation): The enigmatic rock guitar virtuoso's 35th studio album is a sequel to 2002's "Electric Tears" and features a pair of Johann Sebastian Bach pieces.

Cursive, "I Am Gemini" (Saddle Creek): The Nebraska rock trio's latest is a conceptual piece about twin brothers separated at birth, each taking a separate path of good and evil.

Guy Davis, "The Adventures of Fishy Waters: In Bed With the Blues" (Smokeydoke): The son of actors Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis gives us the blues in the form of a two-disc "audio play" that combines original songs with material by Robert Johnson, Reverend Gary Davis and others.

Doris, "All the Details" (self-released): Actor Paul Adelstein's latest outing includes a salute, "Ladybug Luck," to racing legend Mert Lawwill.

Fun., "Some Nights" (Fueled By Ramen): The New York indie pop group's second album features a guest shot by Janelle Monae on the track "We Are Young."

Galactic, "Carnivale Electricos" (Anti-): The New Orleans jam band connects the Mardis Gras spirit of its New Orleans home base with Carnivale sounds of Brazil on its new album.

The Iveys, "Days & Nights" (self-released): The sibling trio from El Paso returns after lead singer Arlen Ivey's throat problems forced a delay in following up its 2009 debut album.

Jonquil, "Point of Go" (Dovecote): The jangle-rock quartet from Oxford, England, follows last year's "One Hundred Suns" EP with a full set recorded in an English country farmhouse.

Angelique Kidjo, "Spirit Rising" (Razor & Tie): The African singer's first live album includes guest appearances by Josh Groban, Dianne Reeves, Branford Marsalis and Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig.

Lambchop, "Mr. M" (Merge): Kurt Wagner, chief of this skewed Nashville country band, welcomes back co-founder Jonathan Marx on the group's 11th studio album.

Metta Quintet, "Big Drum/Small World" (JazzReach/The Orchard): The third album from the New York nonprofit JazzReach showcases composers from the U.S., Italy, Cuba, Israel and Puerto Rico.

Michael Martin Murphey, "Campfire on the Road" (Western Jubilee): The veteran Western singer-songwriter recorded this 11-song set, including his 1971 hit "Geronimo's Cadillac," live in Colorado Springs.

Sleigh Bells, "Reign of Terror" (Mom+Pop): the second album from the Brooklyn noise rock duo shows a more fully integrated songwriting collaboration between Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller, who wrote all the songs on 2010's "Treats" himself.

Tindersticks, "The Something Rain" (Lucky Dog/City Slang/Constellation): The British indie rockers' album opener, "Chocolate," is a sequel to the 1995 spoken-word fan favorite "My Sister."

Tyga, "Careless World: Rise of the Last King" (Young Money/Cash Money/Universal Republic): The rapper's second full album is loaded with guests, including Lil Wayne, T-Pain, Nicki Minaj, Pharrell, Busta Rhymes, Robin Thicke, Nas, Wale and Detroit's Big Sean.

Tommy Womack, "Now What!" (Cedar Creek): The fifth solo album by the Kentucky singer-songwriter and partner with Will Kimbrough in the band Daddy.

From the Vaults: Archers of Loaf, "Vee Vee" (Merge); Mike McGear, "McGough & McGear" (Real Gone); Diana Ross, "Diana Ross 1976: Special Edition" (Motown/UMe)

Soundtracks: Ramin Djawadi, "Safe House" (Varese Sarabande); Various Artists, "Act of Valor" (Relativity)

New Music DVDs: Santana, "Live at Montreux: Greatest Hits" (Eagle Rock)

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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