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CD Reviews:
The Listening Room: Meghan Trainor, DMX, Guster, Mark Ronson and more...

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Monday, January 12, 2015

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Meghan Trainor



Grade: B+

She's brought booty back with her chart-topping, Grammy Award-nominated "All About That Bass," and Meghan Trainor's debut album shows that the Nashville singer and songwriter is anything but a one-hit wonder. The 11-track set (15 on the deluxe edition) is an early-year pop delight that lives up to the "heart full of rhythm...head full of melody" Trainor declares on the opening salvo, "The Best Part." She is, of course, a songwriter first and foremost, but Trainor shows plenty of sass as a performer, while she and primary collaborator Kevin Kadish stir together a clever and inventive blend of doo-wop, hip-hop, R&B and Caribbean flavors encased within daringly spare arrangements that leave plenty of room for the hooks -- and Trainor lands more of those than an MMA champion. With her smart and un-preachy odes to female empowerment -- "I know you think I'm cool, but I ain't one of the boys," Trainor announces in the ukulele-led "Title" track -- she comes off as a thinking person's pop diva, slapping around her "Dear Future Husband" with bouncy exuberance, taking responsibility for some bad late-night decisions in "3am" and even drawing out the tears on "Like I'm Gonna Lose You," a duet with John Legend. Trainor may have snared us with a bit of a gimmick, but "Title" proves there's a lot more good junk in her musical trunk.

New & Noteworthy:

DMX, "Redemption of the Beast" (Seven Arts Music): The Ruff Ryder, currently on screen in Chris Rock's "Top Five," gets back to the rhymes with help from Freeway, Rampage and Jannyce.

Guster, "Evermotion" (Ocho Mule/Nettwerk): The earnest rock troupe brought in Richard Swift of the Shins (also the Black Keys' touring keyboardist) to produce its seventh album.

Ella Henderson, "Chapter One" (Syco/Columbia): This 18-year-old "X Factor" finalist has been rocking the U.K. since October with her debut album and now crosses the pond to try to take over the colonies.

Mark Ronson, "Uptown Special" (Columbia): Producer-writer Ronson goes for urbane New York funk on his fourth album, collaborating with Bruno Mars on the already happening "Uptown Funk," with Stevie Wonder, Andrew Wyatt, Mystikal and others popping up on other tracks.

Jazmine Sullivan, "Reality Show" (RCA): The Philadelphia R&B singer and onetime protege of Missy Elliott returns to active duty with her first new album in nearly five years

Various Artists, "Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of Llewyn Davis" (Nonesuch): The music from this Coen brothers film fared better than the movie, which makes the document of this one-night, all-star concert in New York (Jack White, Conor Oberst, Joan Baez, the Avett Brothers and more) a much better way to remember the project.

Also Out: A Skylit Drive, "Rise: Ascension" (Tragic Hero); Brad Absher, "Lucky Dog" (Montrose); Calabrese, "Lust For Sacrilege" (Spookshow); Crown, "Death is Not Dead" (Century Media); Kat Dahlia, "My Garden" (Epic); Dr. Dog, "Live at a Flamingo Hotel" (Anti-); Justin Townes Earle, "Absent Fathers" (Vagrant); Entombed, "Clandestine" (Earache); The Expendables, "Sand in the Sky" (Stoopid); Fences, "Lesser Oceans" (Atlantic); German Panzer, "Send Them All to Hell" (Nuclear Blast); Liam Hayes, "Slurrup" (Fat Possum); Josh Hoyer & the Shadowboxers, "Living By the Minute" (Silver Street); Justin Kauflin, "Dedication" (Jazz Village); Manila Road, "Out of the Abyss" (Shadow Kingdom); Donny Osmond, "The Soundtrack of My LIfe" (Verve); Pain of Salvation, "Falling Home" (Inside Out); Panda Bear, "Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper" (Domino); Chris Potter and the Underground Orchestra, "Imaginary Cities" (ECM); Joshua Radin, "Onward and Sidewalks" (Glass Bead); Judy Silvano, "My Dance" (JSL); The Suitcase Junket, "Make Time" (self-released); Ting Tings, "Super Critical" (Pias America): Various Artists, "Rock & Roll All Nite: A Tribute to Kiss 1974-2014" (Versailles); Jackson Ward, "Goodbye Trouble" (Spectra); Wednesday 13, "Monsters of the Universe: Come Out and Play" (self-released); Sonya Yoncheva, "Paris, mon amour" (Sony Classical);

From the Vaults: Freddy Fender, "The Golden Voice of the Texas Gulf Coast" (Gazell); Jefferson Airplane, "Last Stand at Winterland" (Leftfield); Little Feat, "Hellzapoppin' " (All Access); Moody Blues, "The Magnificent Moodies" (Esoteric Antenna); Lou Reed, "Hassled in April" (Smokin'); Sonny Rollins, "The Presitge Years" (Enlightenment); Suzanne Vega, "Live at the Speakeasy 1985" (All Access); Johnny Winter, "Remembrance Volume 1" (Friday Music)

Soundtracks: Various Artists, "Boardwalk Empire Volume 3 (Music From the HBO Original Series)" (ABKCO); "Fantasia: The Legacy Collection" (Walt Disney); Various Artists, "The Grandmaster" (Phineas Atwood); "Honeymoon in Vegas: Original Broadway Cast Recording" (UMe)

New Music DVDs: Trace Adkins, "Live Country" (Eagle Rock); Genesis, "Sum of the Parts" (Eagle Rock); "Finding Fela" (Kino Lorber)

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