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CD Reviews:
The Listening Room: Sixpence None The Richer, Colt Ford and more...

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Monday, August 6, 2012

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Sixpence None the Richer

"Lost in Transition"

The Orchard


It's been five years since Sixpence None The Richer reunited, and while it took awhile to finally get an album out, Sixpence is, well, all the richer for the wait. Best known for pleasantly frothy fare such as "Kiss Me" and hit covers of the La's "There She Goes" and Crowded House's "Don't Dream It's Over," the faith-based trio starts its first new album in a decade with the rocking, brassy ode to a car -- "My Dear Machine," the title track from Sixpence's 2008 "comeback" EP -- but quickly gets into weightier matters. "Give It Back" is a midtempo devotional evoking "Amazing Grace" and seeking inspiration, while "When You Call Me" anticipates a salvational encounter and "Failure" stares mortality in the face. "Safety Line" is a love song that straddles the secular-sacred line, and if tracks such as "Radio," "Go Your Way" and "Stand My Ground" lament the end of relationships (you can read much about Sixpence's 2004 split into these), "Should Not Be This Hard" and "Be OK" find reason to be optimistic on the other side. The 12-song set finds singer Leigh Nash and guitarist Matt Slocum (assisted by Nash's husband Stephen Wilson) matured as songwriters, with Nash's vocal performances even more resonant and assured than they were before, her breathy innocence replace by a more forceful and confident presence. Sixpence's stock in trade remains the midtempo and melodic, but it deftly handles the spirited, ringing pop of "Should Not Be This Hard" and the countryish shuffle of "Go Your Way" as readily as the ethereal moods of "Failure" and "Stand My Ground." It's a solid "Transition" into a new career phase, and hopefully we won't have to wait quite as long for more new music.


Colt Ford, "Declaration of Independence" (Average Joe's Entertainment): **

The point of Colt Ford's fourth album is voiced in the song "Hugh Damn Right" -- "Do you wanna have a good time?" The country rapper certainly does, and that's the prevailing them on these 15 tracks, even if he does dip into moments of political discourse ("Answer to No One" with JJ Lawhorn) and sentimentality (the single "Back" with Jake Owen, "Drivin' Around Song" with Jason Aldean). Ford's flow works best when it's fast and focused on partying with Kix Brooks ("All In"), LoCash Cowboys and Redneck Social Club ("Dancin' While Intoxicated") and Corey Smith (the easy grooving "Room at the Bar"). This is Ford's best-written and best-sounding set yet, thanks partly to hitmaker Dann [cq] Huff, who steps in on a few tracks. The vocal hooks still sound better than the raps, but the marriage of the two genres sounds less like a shotgun wedding this time around.

New & Noteworthy:

Antony and the Johnsons, "Cut the World" (Secretly Canadian): A collection of symphonic versions of the idiosyncratic songs of Antony Hegarty and his New York-based troupe.

David Archuleta, "Begin" (Mountain): The "American Idol" runner-up covers songs by "The Voice's" Christina Aguilera, R.E.M., Simon & Garfunkel, Sarah McLachlan and more on his fifth album.

Erin Boheme, "What a Life" (Heads Up International): Michael Buble produced this second album by his protege, a more matured talent now than she was when she released her debut album five years ago at the age of 17.

Cruxshadows, "As the Dark Against My Halo" (Wishfire): The Florida goths are as dark and edgy as ever, blending violins and guitars into its electro-based sound.

Stuart Davis, "Music For MOrtals" (SDM): A rocking set of new tunes self-dubbed Punk Monk and creator of the TV show "Sex, God, Rock 'n' Roll."

Jovanotti, "Italia 1988-2012" (ATO): The Italian singer-songwriter introduces himself to U.S. audiences with a career compilation that sports four new tracks.

Los Straitjackets, "Jet Set" (Yep Roc): The masked instrumental group lets it rock again with a new three-guitar lineup that just makes for more of a good thing.

Branford Marsalis, "Four Mf's Playin' Tunes" (Marsalis Music): The saxophonist gathers his latest quartet, featuring new drummer Justin Faulkner, for a typically ambitious and energetic work-out.

Marcus Miller, "Renaissance" (Concord/Jazz): The jazz bassist takes on songs by War, the Jackson 5, Janelle Monae and others alongside eight original compositions.

Janka Nabay and the Bubu Gang, "En Yay Sah" (Luaka Bop): The Brooklyn-based African artist taps into his roots with help from experimentally minded members of bands such as Skeletons, Chairlift, Saadi and Highlife.

Redd Kross, "Researching the Blues" (Merge): The California rockers roar through 10 songs in a bit less than 32 minutes on their first new album in 15 years.

Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band, "Between the Ditches" (Sideonedummy): The gutbucket Indiana roots trio's latest album follows last year's tribute to Charlie Patton.

Shel, "Shel" (Moraine/Mad King): The folk-pop group from Colorado delivers its first full-length album to follow last year's "When the Dragon Came Down" EP.

Emilie Simon, "Frankly Knight" (??): The latest release from the French singer-songwriter and composer of the "March of the Penguins" score also serves as a soundtrack to the new Audrey Tautou film "Delicacy."

10 Years, "Minus the Machine" (Palehorse): The Tennessee hard rockers launch their own lavel with the release of their sixth studio album.

The Trishas, "High, Wide & Handsome" (Trishas Music): The first full album from the singer-songwriter quartet features collaborations with top-shelf co-writers and musicians from the Americana music scene.

Turbonegro, "Sexual Harrasment" (Volcom): The first new album in five years from the revered Norwegian punk band.

Various Artists, "Now 43: That's What I Call Music" (EMI), "Now That's What I Call Party Anthems" (EMI): Two more entries from the best-selling compilation series, with recent hits from Maroon 5, David Guetta, Pitbull, LMFAO, Snoop Dogg and many more.

Various Artists, "We Walk the Line: A Celebration of the Music of Johnny Cash" (Legacy): A CD/DVD document of the 80th birthday tribute concert in April coordinated by Detroit native Don Was and featuring performances by Train's Pat Monahan, Kris Kristofferson, Sheryl Crow, Willie Nelson, Ronnie Dunn and more.

Elle Varner, "Perfectly Imperfect" (MBK/RBK): The youthful R&B singer and songwriter from Los Angeles gets help from rapper J. Cole on her self-produced debut album.

Rob Zombie, "Mondo Sex Head" (UMe): The shock rocker's tunes, both solo and from his White Zombie days, are remixed by JDevil (Korn's Jonathan Davis), Photek and other artists from the EDM world.

From The Vaults: Johnny Cash, "The Greatest: The Number Ones," "The Greatest: Duets," "The Greatest: Country Classics," "The Greatest: Gospel Songs" (Columbia/Legacy); Low, "The Curtain Hits the Cast" (Vernon Yard); Graham Parker, "Live at Rockpalast" (Made In Germany Music); Mitch Ryder, "Live at Rockpalast" (Made In Germany Music)

Soundtracks: James Newton Howard, "The Bourne Legacy" (Varese Sarabande); Vangelis, "Chariots of Fire: The Play" (Decca)

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