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Raoul and the Big Time

Hollywood Blvd. (Big Time)


If you're a fan of Canadian television, you may be somewhat familiar with actor Raoul Bhaneja via his work in The Newsroom. What you may not realize is that the talented thespian is also a hot-as-spit harmonica player and leader of his own sizzlingly authentic blues combo, the Big Time.

Their fifth album, the wild and woolly Hollywood Blvd., is the kind of unpretentious set that reaches back to the swinging old-school Los Angeles-bred jump blues of its title, and then some.

Bhaneja's eight originals mesh perfectly with the well-chosen covers by the likes of Alan Toussaint and Pops Staples, and the performer has corralled some of the brightest lights of California bluesdom to help flesh out the basic Big Time sound. When righteous cats like Rick Holmstrom, Jeff Turmes, Larry Taylor and Junior Watson are in the house, the residue of experience is palpable.

Both Dan "Elwood Blues" Aykroyd and Bruce "Bruno" Willis can now exit the stage. They have effectively been blown off it. 4 stars



-- Jeff Monk




Rodney Crowell

Tarpaper Sky (New West)


Rodney Crowell was a venerable musician, performer and producer before he released The Houston Kid in 2001, but that semi-autobiographical album was his masterpiece -- a marriage of vivid storytelling, raw emotions and note-perfect musical accompaniment, steeped in the traditions of Nashville country and Texas Americana.

Ever since, Crowell has been on a creative tear: he's written his autobiography, collaborated with old pal Emmylou Harris (on Old Yellow Moon), with poet Mary Karr (on Kin) and released another four solo albums.

By now, the sound and feel of a post-Kid Crowell album is familiar, but that doesn't mean this material is rote. Every note, every tale, every invocation of emotion rings true.

Crowell joins with the same band as on 1988's Diamond & Dirt to touch on the wide-eyed travels of youth (The Long Journey Home) and the wonders of love and lust (on the Cajun vibe of Fever on the Bayou and the boogie-woogie romp of Frankie Please). Intermingled are wonderful sketches of characters and scenes, and, just when you think he's done it all, Crowell delivers a pair of ballads -- God I'm Missing You and I Wouldn't Be Me Without You -- that will bring a lump to even the most cynical of throats. 4 stars


DOWNLOAD THIS: The Long Journey Home

-- John Kendle





Honest (Epic)


Things move fast in the music business, especially in hip hop.

So when the release of Future's followup to the game-changing Pluto got pushed back, it raised a lot of questions. The album answers some, but raises others.

What happened to the first single Real and True, with Miley Cyrus on vocals? It's not here. Where is the anticipated Rockstar featuring Nicki Minaj? Also missing, reportedly because of sample-clearing issues.

The bigger question, though, is what is Future's future? With Pluto, he brought back the use of AutoTune in hip-hop, twisting it to create a more space-age sound. He still uses it, but it's not as striking because so many others have taken it up again.

On Honest, Future bends his flow and his style to his collaborators. He sounds giddy to be playing around with Andre 3000 on Benz Friendz (Whatchutola) on a very OutKasty track. He sounds ready to join a Dirty South crew on Move That Dope with Pharrell, Pusha T and Casino. And the minimalism of My Momma owes more to collaborator Wiz Khalifa.

Future holds his own with Kanye West on new single I Won, a good sign of his pop-crossover potential, and it raises yet another question: why doesn't more of Honest sound like this? Like, you know, Future? 3 1/2 stars



-- By Glenn Gamboa, Newsday




Marco Castillo

Zabelê (Independent)


Marco Castillo's musical mission is simple -- since moving to Winnipeg in 2006, the native of Rio de Janeiro has ceaselessly sought to bring the music of Brazil to a broader audience.

There's certainly no better man to do it. Son of a musician and bandleader, guitarist Castillo has immersed himself in the local scene over the past eight years. The just-released Zabelê is his third self-produced album and it's a rich document of the man's musical ability and heritage. The material here ranges from breezy, Jobim-style sambas (Samba Carioca) to full-on baile funk (the joyous Samba Funk & Futebol) to a pair of jazz-inflected, almost New Age guitar instrumentals.

While all the supporting players on Zabelê are local, the compositions are Castillo's and the vibe and feel are distinct and near-authentic. You could say "mission accomplished." 3 1/2 stars


Download this: Forrò no Canad°, Samba Funk & Futebol

-- JK





Love Runs Out (Interscope)

The new single from the deluxe re-release of their Native album is a percussive, piano-driven rock 'n' soul affair that's vaguely reminiscent of Adele's Rumour Has It (which lead singer Ryan Tedder actually co-wrote and produced). What it may lack in originality, it more than makes up for in punchy retro coolness. 3 1/2



I Won (Epic/Sony)

Future and Kanye sound great together as per usual on this sexy mid-tempo bumper from the Atlanta rapper's new album that praises the virtues of the trophy wife (presumably inspired by their respective lady friends, Ciara and Kim Kardashian). Serviceable, but it will hardly set the world alight. 3 stars



Roll Out (Tomboy)

Up-and-coming Brooklyn synth-pop duo Tomboy will unveil their debut EP sometime later this summer, and if the rest of it is even half as good as this lead single, you'll want to snatch it up immediately. The chilled vocals, tribal drums and hypnotizing synths make for an intriguingly addictive Everything But the Girl-inspired experience. Definitely one to watch. 4 stars


-- reviewed by Steve Adams

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 24, 2014 ??65532

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