Monday, April 18, 2011

The Belle Brigade - "The Belle Brigade" (8.3 of 10)

Well this is why I review music, painstaking and frustrating though it is - sifting through crappy albums week after week like a Sutter's Mill miner in 1849. But then, there it is - a shiny gold nugget amidst the sediment of worthless mediocrity. I don't know anything about The Belle Brigade other than it's a brother-sister duo who are from L.A. And they are a fusion of Buckingham-Nicks, Mates of State, and the Everly Brothers if one of them was a girl. Got it? This is an amazing debut with great melodies, impeccable harmony, and enough diversity to always keep it interesting. Coming to a festival somewhere near you this summer, and when they become huge, remember I said it here first. I wish his voice was a little less nasally...but whatever.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Alison Kraus and Union Station - "Paper Airplane" (7.7 of 10)

They have forged their own sound and own genre over the years - no longer just bluegrass, not exactly country or folk, and certainly not pop- so just what ARE they? Obviously they rely upon Alison's angelic voice as well as the musicianship of Union Station. Now we just need melodies since there is no principal song writer in the group. And, it seems to me, that they have struggled to find proper songs the past few albums to make a coherent, flowing album that could stand the test of time and could be pointed to as their "classic." Hits and misses all over the place...and it's no different here. You get what you get. And it's nice enough, but name me the standout track or moment? What leaves you humming the tune as you walk away? Maybe "Lay My Burden Down" I suppose. Or "My Love Follows You Where You Go." Very nice moments there. But since Alison could sing the phone book and make it sound amazing, it's always worth the money to hear any album she's a part of.

Paul Simon - "So Beautiful or So What" (8.3 of 10)

It's just so difficult to make a new album 45 years or so after your first one and not sound tired, boring or irrelevant. Especially since you haven't put out a "decent" album in 20 years, and not a "great" one in 25 years! And count me in as someone who was skeptical when I approached this album. But this new Simon album makes me feel 10 or so - back in 1972 - listening to his first solo release. Ok, there's no "Mother and Child Reunion" here, but this is great stuff. Melodic and insightful...even joyful at times as he sings about darker topics such as mortality. Completely eclipses and makes to seem silly most of the singer/songwriters of today. They know who they are, and I suspect that you do too. Love that title track!