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The Listening Room: Martina McBride, Wilko Johnson & Roger Daltrey and more...
Martina McBride certainly doesn't have to record a covers album or expand her offerings beyond country; her last seven albums all were Top 5 in the Billboard country charts (three hit No. 1), with 20 Top 10 singles and a slew of awards to her credit. So "Everlasting," produced by Detroit native Don Was, is a labor of love and a testament to McBride's versatility, showing she can sell even the most gutbucket R&B tunes with her pure vocal tone and exceptional phrasing skills. And Was, as he's done with so many other artists, arranges instrumental beds that surround and support and never impede on McBride's singing. The Supremes' "Come See About Me" gets the most dramatic overhaul here, sounding more Memphis than Motown, and she aces duets with Gavin DeGraw (on Sam Cooke's "Bring It On Home To Me") and Kelly Clarkson (recreating the Etta James/Sugar Pie DeSanto classic "In the Basements"). Mellower takes on Jimmy Ruffin's "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted" and Elvis Presley's "Suspicious Minds" are also nice fits, and her clean, subtle delivery of Aretha Franklin's "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man" lends an innocence that's different from the original. McBride will likely return to original material on her next project, but "Everlasting" is a welcome and successful exercise in creative stretching.
Wilko Johnson and Roger Daltrey, "Going Back Home" (Chess) ***
Wilko Johnson doesn't sound like a man on death's door -- at least not on the 11 crackling blues- and R&B-laced rock tracks here. Diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer last year, the former Dr. Feelgood sounds robust and performing as if, well, his life dependent on it throughout the disc, while the Who's Roger Daltrey sings and plays harmonica with the youthful vigor of his mid-60s self. There's certainly a poignancy to the circumstances here, but neither veteran lets it get in the way of their good time on these 10 Johnson originals and a grooving cover of Bob Dylan`s "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window." If this is indeed Johnson's last gasp, he's made it a memorable howl.
New and Noteworthy:
Black Label Society, "Catacombs of the Black Vatican" (eOne): Zakk Wylde`s band welcomes new guitarist Dario Lirono from Lizzy Borden on its first release without original rhythm man Nick Catanese.
Carlene Carter, "Carter Girl" (Rounder): Detroit native Don Was produced this latest album from the Carter/Cash family progeny.
Ronnie Dunn, "Peace, Love and Country Music" (Little Will-E): The second solo album from the former half of country stalwarts Brooks & Dunn.
James Durbin, "Celebrate" (Wind-Up): The sophomore album from the Season 10 "American Idol" finalist.
The Faint, "Doom Abuse" (SQE): The Nebraska indie rockers re-emerge after a six-year break between albums.
John Frusciante, "Enclosure" (Record Collection): The 11th, typically experimental studio album from the forme Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist.
Greyhounds, "Accumulator" (Ardent): A vintage and rootsy-sounding debut from this Austin, Texas-based duo.
Heathers, "Kingdom" (Aunthill/Big Three): This sophomore set from the Irish twin sisters has already hit the Top 10 in their homeland.
Eric Hutchinson, "Pure Fiction" (Let's Break): The ambitious singer and songwriter takes a more pop-influenced direction on his fifth release.
Ellis Marsalis, "On the Second Occasion" (Elm): The veteran jazz educator and elder statesman of the New Orleans Marsalis clan is in a mellow mood on this 10-song set. this
MercyMe, "Welcome to the New" (Fair Trade Services): The Christian rock troupe from Texas delivers 10 new songs for its ninth studio album.
Off!, "Wasted Years" (Vice): The veteran punk rockers' latest features "Hypnotized," the longest song -- all two minutes of it -- the group has ever recorded.
Joan Osborne, "Love & Hate" (eOne): The "One of Us" hitmaker co-produced and wrote or co-wrote all the material for her eighth solo album.
Haley Pharo, "Haley Pharo" (Haywire): The debut album from the California dance-pop artist who's been kicking around the music biz since he was eight years old.
Protomartyr, "Under Color of Official Right" (Hardly Art): The Detroit modern rock troupe's second set veers a bit from the more garage-flavored inclination of its 2012 debut.
Squarepusher, "Music For Robots" (Warp): Of course, the title of this album is something we though British electronic artist Thomas Jenkinson's been doing for the past 20 years.
Sweet Apple, "The Golden Age of Glitter" (Tee Pee): The second outing by the indie rock supergroup featuring Dinosaur Jr.'s J Mascis and members of Cobra Verde, Guided By Voices, Witch and more, with guest appearances by GBV's Robert Pollard and Screaming Trees' Mark Lanegan.
Uh Huh Her, "Future Souls" (Plaid): The electro-pop duo's third album features a guest appearance from Big Black Delta/Mellowdrone member Jonathan Bates.
Dan Wilson, "Love Without fear" (+180): The hitmaking songwriter and former Semisonic frontman has a corps of all-star helpers, including members of the Dixie Chicks and Nickel Creek, helping on his first solo albumin seven years.
From The Vaults: Emmylou Harris, "Wrecking Ball (Deluxe Edition)" (nonesuch); Linda Ronstadt, "Duets" (Rhino)
Soundtracks: "Jozef Van Wissem, "Only Lovers Left Alive" (ATP)
New Music DVDs: "Justin Bieber's Believe" (Universal)
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