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Monday, July 23rd, 2012
Music Reviews

7.19.12 - The Beat’s Record Roundup - Elizabeth Cook, Alejandro Escovedo, Buck Owens and More

Zach Brock

Almost Never Was

Criss Cross Jazz

Violinist Brock jumps in here as leader of a quartet featuring Aaron Goldberg on piano, Matt Penman on bass and Eric Harland on drums. Almost Never Was features a strong nine-track program, with three pieces by Brock, and the rest a mix of Monk, Hendrix, Joe Henderson and others. Apparently fiddle-led jazz is something of a rarity (the only name a lot of us could probably come up with is Jean-Luc Ponty) but Brock blazes his own trail here, putting his instrument in all kinds of places. “Monk’s Dream” is usually played on keyboard, but it ain’t here.

- Bruce Collier


Elizabeth Cook

Gospel Plow

Thirty One Tigers

I reviewed Cook’s debut—Hey Y’all, recorded for a major record label that didn’t know what to do with her—years ago, and, referring to that album’s closing “God’s Got a Plan,” remarked that I couldn’t wait for a full-length gospel effort. It took about 10 years, and it’s only seven songs, but it was definitely worth the wait. Do yourself a big favor and explore this woman’s entire discography.

- Christopher C. Manson


Alejandro Escovedo

Big Station

Fantasy/ Concord

Few performers convey the sheer joy of music making like Escovedo. He’s a legend in Austin, Texas, and after you hear this— and the half-dozen or so great records that preceded it—you’ll wonder why the guy’s not a household name everywhere else.

-Christopher C. Manson


Carole King

The Legendary Demos

Hear Music

Even on the roughest of these rough versions (“Crying in the Rain”), she’s never less than brilliant and/or charming. That invitation to the 2013 30A Songwriters Festival still stands, Carole.

- Christopher C. Manson


Paul & Linda McCartney

RAM (Deluxe Edition)

Hear Music

Some of Macca’s toughest post-Beatles music—not Primal Scream, mind you, but pretty tough—has the added benefit of lack of overexposure on classic rock radio (aside from “Uncle Albert”). Plus a bunch of demos and throwaways that are actually worth hearing, as they provide insights into the man’s creative process.

- Christopher C. Manson


Buck Owens

“Live” at the White House

Omnivore Recordings

The Buckaroos’ show for Nixon and his cronies offers endless pleasures (Don Rich’s superb guitar playing, for starters), plus the obscure single “You Won’t Have Ol’ Buck to Kick Around Anymore” and bonus recordings from an Apollo 16 Program concert that are pure fun—probably because Buck and the gang didn’t think anyone besides the astronauts would ever hear the thing.

- Christopher C. Manson


Ryan Shaw

Real Love

Dynotone

One of the best R&B records in ages, full of great originals and one of the best versions of “Yesterday” (yes, that “Yesterday”) I can remember. Recommended to American Idol knucklehead Randy Jackson, who recently remarked that there weren’t any good traditional soul singers around anymore.

- Christopher C. Manson


Spectrum Road

Spectrum Road

Palmetto

Jack Bruce, Vernon Reid, John Medeski and Cindy Blackman Santana (four names with magisterial rock/jazz/fusion cachet) decided Tony Williams (Miles Davis’ drummer) needed some re-covering. The product is Spectrum Road, by their band of the same name. It’s worth a listen for many reasons, though Bruce’s tremulous but mercifully sparse shamanic chanting isn’t one of them. It reminded me of what a grab bag classic fusion was, with some real gems buried in the riffs-for-riffs’ sake. I get the feeling this sounds better live, especially the Big Dog track, a 12-minute New Age hootenanny called “Where.” Miles might have asked “Why?”

- Bruce Collier


Hank Williams Jr.

Old School New Rules

Bocephus/Blaster Records

Amazing that the guy was able to record an entire album’s worth of vocals with his head firmly embedded up his ass.

- Christopher C. Manson


Neil Young & Crazy Horse

Americana

Reprise

The Godfather of Grunge tackles the Great American Songbook with gasp-inducing results, highlighted by a remarkable take on “This Land Is Your Land,” just in time for Woody’s 100th birthday.

- Christopher C. Manson


ZZ Top

Texicali

Republic

Four new tracks that never wear out their welcome, thanks to equal measures of grungy and greasy. And, as Jason Isbell recently pointed out, they’ve had the same lineup for 40 years. Take that, every other band on earth!

- Christopher C. Manson