See You There (Surfdog)
AT 77 and stricken with Alzheimer's disease, Glen Campbell looks back at a lifetime of work on See You There. He revisits classics such as Wichita Lineman and Galveston with a contemplative, late-night feel, stripping down to small-combo arrangements based on brushed rhythms, gently sustained organ notes and twangy, single-note, electric guitar.
Most of the vocals were recorded a few years ago, around the time Campbell recorded Ghost on the Canvas, released in 2011. His voice is pure, strong and as soulful as ever, with only sporadic moments where his tone wavers. Gentle on My Mind, for example, finds Campbell's voice sounding damp and slurred in places.
Overall, though, this is a testament that Campbell has remained a potent interpreter of good songs. Proof comes not only in how he hits the notes of a classic like Hey Little One, but in the emotional layers he brings to songs written in recent years. In What I Wouldn't Give and There's No Me Without You, he acknowledges the melancholy of aging while assuring loved ones there is something better beyond this life for all of them. ***
DOWNLOAD THIS: Hey Little One
-- Michael McCall, The Associated Press
Vince Gill & Paul Franklin
Bakersfield (MCA Nashville)
FOR those dismayed by contemporary country music's lack of steel guitar and shuffle rhythms, Bakersfield is your antidote.
With Vince Gill no longer competing for top radio hits, he turns his attention to one of the bedrock styles of the traditional American music that he loves. Recruiting Paul Franklin -- by far the most recorded pedal steel guitarist in Nashville in the last 25 years -- Gill swaggers into the Telecaster-and-steel country sounds of Merle Haggard and Buck Owens, heroes to these two musicians and millions of others who revere brawny, succinctly poetic working-class music.
Gill's tender tenor swings into these classic lyrics in a manner that tips his hat to the distinctive styles of both masters, yet finds his own honky-tonk persona through them. While his voice rises to the occasion, Gill's Fender guitar and Franklin's pedal steel are just as substantial, both coming up with inventive licks that pay tribute to the originals without being carbon copies.
Balancing five songs from both the catalogues of Haggard and Owens, the selections include standards such as Hag's Branded Man and The Bottle Let Me Down as well as Owens' Together Again and Foolin' Around. But the album benefits from reaching beyond the well-known hits. Gill and Franklin dig out less familiar gems such as Holding Things Together by Haggard and He Don't Deserve You Anymore by Owens, both as good as anything on Bakersfield -- a great country album in any era. ****
DOWNLOAD THIS: Holding Things Together
-- Michael McCall, The Associated Press
All The Good'Uns Vol. 2 (Stony Plain Records)
CANADIAN singer/songwriter Ian Tyson will likely need no introduction to music-loving fans of a certain age who can trace their relationship with Tyson back to the 1960s when he found initial success as a member of the Great Speckled Bird and folk duo Ian and Sylvia.
This volume contains 19 tracks covering over a decade of his finer work, and while it is hard to cherry-pick when it comes to an artist of Tyson's stature, it's an appropriate collection for fans and friends. Tyson keeps most of his songs close to the bone. He sings of what he knows and where he has travelled. Expect tales of the trail, broken-down cowboys galloping toward the lost horizon and romantic odes to love and loss.
Songs like Lost Herd deliver in a most earnest fashion and evoke nights out on the plains with the stars as a blanket and the wildness of nature close at hand. Compiled from five albums released between 1999 and 2012, ATGV2 means to get the casual listener up-to-date with Tyson's most recent work, including a couple of tracks recorded after a virus burned through his vocal cords, stripping him of his distinctive timbre. But it's all good -- the man still sounds convincingly sincere any time he sings.
As an influence on everyone from Neil Young to Bob Dylan, this great Canadian is an elder statesman worthy of respect. ***
DOWNLOAD THIS: Blaino's Song
-- Jeff Monk
Rhythm & Blues (RCA)
NOW 52 years into his career, guitar master Buddy Guy proves that the very best blues reflects an accumulation of hard-won experience and good, good times.
To mark his 77th birthday Tuesday, Guy released perhaps his finest album. Rhythm & Blues is a two-disc set -- one of high-energy R&B, the other of richly textured Chicago-style blues -- produced by his longtime collaborator/drummer, Tom Hambridge.
There's no coasting or padding: All but three of the 21 songs are high-quality originals, some autobiographical. The guests, including Kid Rock (on a rollicking cover of Messin' With the Kid), Gary Clark Jr., Keith Urban, members of Aerosmith and Beth Hart (on the stellar What You Gonna Do About Me), more than pull their weight.
Guy is as focused and fiery, tender and tough, sly and sublime as he's ever been. *****
DOWNLOAD THIS: What You Gonna Do About Me
-- Jerry Shriver, USA Today
Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros
Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros (Community Music LLC)
IF you have been living under a proverbial rock, this 10-member strong Los Angeles-based travelling music circus has been wandering the Earth since 2007, pulling in fervent acolytes by the bong-load attracted to their over-arching message of peace, love and free incense burners for all.
There isn't much tie-dye in their sound -- an exquisite pastiche ranging from '60s-inflected psychedelic folk to jam rock and heavenly swoon that even your mom and pop may admire, but they aren't far from being tomorrow's Grateful Dead.
Gangs of furry millennials travel far and wide to soak in this sound and this album is a perfect sampler of what these musical bohemians do marvellously well -- spread easy and light good vibes while getting a positive message across. The second track, Let's Get High, is pretty much their call to arms, and even though the first line of lyric is followed by "...on love!" you get the feeling this band is exactly what the California chemist ordered. Yes, the message here is love, people, and while lead singer and songwriter Alex Ebert is the focal point of most tracks, he does share the microphone with others, which adds even more soulfulness to their expansive palette.
It's a first-rate album with enough lyrical and musical imagery to keep it interesting, and even incredible-sounding, at times. Heck, it may even change the world; you just need to hold your breath and wait. ****
DOWNLOAD THIS: Remember To Remember
-- Jeff Monk
In a World Like This (K-BAHN, BMG)
BACKSTREET'S back, all right!
Not all right, actually.
The Backstreet Boys managed to bring fifth member Kevin Richardson back into the fold for an eighth album and a world tour to celebrate 20 years of making music. In a World Like This is also the first to come out from under their own label, K-BAHN, after parting with longtime partner, the now defunct Jive Records.
The boys collaborate mostly with producers Martin Terefe and Morgan Taylor Reid on the 12-track album that lacks the immediate hooks their earlier hits had. BSB's album is a grown-up mix of tunes talking about love and commitment, but the songs bleed into each other despite not being similar. The group is too concerned to show us how they've matured to remember that it's sexy vibes that sell.
Breathe, Feels Like Home, Permanent Stain and Make Believe are average, but they provide the much-needed key hooks for the dance floor. Try is too Eric Clapton-esque to stand out in this day and age, while acoustic downers Madeleine and Trust Me bring the sex appeal factor to a zero Kelvin.
The album's best moment is its first song: The Max Martin-produced lead single and title track has simple guitar chords that draw you in and a catchy, wholesome beat that keeps you tapping your feet.
But the rest of the album heads in one direction -- downhill. **
DOWNLOAD THIS: In a World Like This
-- Cristina Jaleru, The Associated Press