Black Joe Lewis
Electric Slave (Vagrant/Universal)
IF you have found less and less potent music to grab hold of lately, then your initial impression upon hearing the first track on the new Black Joe Lewis album may be, "What the hell is this?" Opening burner Skulldiggin sets off with a heavy and wavering fuzz bassline underlaid with a piano figure worthy of classic period Iggy and the Stooges at their dirtiest and most righteous.
And it only gets better from there.
Lewis is a Texas musician with attitude and he's not afraid to let his freak flag fly all over his third studio album. And by that we mean a exhilarating dose of unhinged, stage-burning soul, sax-y black funk and Texas-bred, acid-informed punk rock that just isn't made enough anymore. He's a screamer, and it's doubtful there are few people outside of some heavy metal circles who shred like Black Joe does on Young Girls. He does it on key and with style too.
The band is there at every turn, mixing it up with driving horns, chicken scratch guitar and up-front bass burn just like they mean it. On Come To My Party Lewis promises "we'll spin some records, man, I got all the good jams, we'll pull the furniture out of the living room tonight, get everybody rocking at my party" and you know he means it. If you play Electric Slave at even half volume, the party will indeed begin in your living room too. *****
DOWNLOAD THIS: The Hipster
-- Jeff Monk
The Wild Feathers
The Wild Feathers (Warner)
NASHVILLE-BASED and Austin-bred, the Wild Feathers are somewhat reminiscent of another Austin act, the Band of Heathens. Both groups have multiple lead vocalists and share similar musical influences - Neil Young, Tom Petty and the Band -- among them.
Producer Jay Joyce has worked with acts as diverse as Cage the Elephant, Little Big Town and Emmylou Harris (along with Winnipeggers the Duhks and Chantal Kreviazuk) and very capably steers this tight unit successfully through ass-kickin' rockers (both pounding and melodic), soulful R&B-flavoured treats and Jayhawks-inspired country rock that shows off their jangly and sensitive side.
The album's centerpiece is a captivating track called The Ceiling. Like a Texas tornado it builds to epic proportions and never looks back.
The Wild Feathers play a superior blend of rock SSRqn' roll that shows off their roots and gets better with every spin. ****
DOWNLOAD THIS: The Ceiling
-- Bruce Leperre
WITH any luck, Nova Scotia-via-Saskatchewan singer-songwriter Kim Wempe won't remain an indie artist much longer. Any larger distribution label representative with ears looking for the next big Canuck talent should be queuing up at her cabin door pronto, trying to lock down this wild talent.
Wempe has the kind of vocal dexterity that commands attention right from the opening track of her third album, Coalition. With a rough-hewn resonance in the range of Bonnie Raitt or the Duhks' Jessee Havey, Wempe can sound both ballsy and sweet, sometimes in the same song.
It's not only the admirable quality of her vocal cords that makes Coalition such an appealing listen; it's her ability to move that forceful howl and sweet purr into a varied set of arrangements. The soul meets the blues vibe of The River begs for comparison to later Mavis Staples for its heartfelt, hands-raised to the sky bible belting. Contrast that with the slow-motion musk of Come Home and Love Likes Simple and you have an album as varied stylistically as it is compelling to listen to.
The musical aptitude and, yes, attitude here is as professional as it gets and it's the attention to the small details -- hooks, memorable lyrics -- that push the album into another realm. Like the song declares, Coalition is akin to a "lantern in a fog" and should definitely light Wempe's way to a bright future. ****
DOWNLOAD THIS: Down Here
-- Jeff Monk
Naming his upcoming album The Marshall Mathers LP 2 sets the bar pretty high, but Eminem delivers for the most part on this first single. Aggressively sampling Billy Squire's The Stroke, this relentless rap-rocker has a definite Beastie Boys feel to it (including a well-placed "kick it!"), although the slams against Khloe Kardashian and K-Fed seem obvious and pretty dated. Otherwise, Berzerk is fists-in-the-air fun with (thankfully) not a Pee Wee Herman impression to be found. *** 1/2
Marry Me (Warner)
Apparently written for his main squeeze Jordin Sparks, Jason Derulo piles on the good-boy-mom-would-approve-of sincerity for this almost overly sweet mid-tempo love song that's very much in the same vein as Bruno Mars' Just the Way You Are. Will likely eventually come standard with wedding slideshow software. ***
ARMIN VAN BUUREN FEAT. CINDY ALMA
Beautiful Life (Armada/Sony)
Following up the massive success of This is What it Feels Like, the latest from Armin's Intense album is more or less exactly what you'd expect from the Dutch trance master. Well-polished, shimmering synths, a rumbling bassline and some spine-tingling, chopped-up vocal effects make for a quality dance-floor experience. *** 1/2
-- Reviewed by Steve Adams