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Thursday, September 13th, 2012
Music Reviews

Jersey Seals, Death Before Dying and More... The Beat’s Record Roundup

Ry Cooder

Election Special


Musically, I prefer Cooder’s pro-Obama stuff to Hank Jr.’s anti-Obama stuff, but Decision 2012 is still a lesser of two evils as far as I’m concerned. Cooder’s near the top of his game, but his best take on politics is on the album before this one—Pull up Some Dust and Sit Down’s “John Lee Hooker for President,” which still makes a lot of sense…especially after following the coverage of both conventions.

- Christopher C. Manson

Death Before Dying

Sometimes Death Is Better


What happens when ferocious death metal is combined with the cultural phenomena that are zombies? Panama City’s Death Before Dying answers that question with a blistering release that both pays homage to those who created the genre and celebrates a world where a zombie apocalypse is reality. But it’s the strong technical elements, distinctive grooves, and dynamic vocals that make this a standout album. Metal fans will be excited to see Terry Butler’s name in the album credits, playing bass on a cover of “Pull the Plug,” a song that was originally recorded during his time with the seminal metal band Death 24 years ago.

- Nikki Hedrick

Bob Dylan



The sprawling title track suggests the Maestro finally got around to seeing James Cameron’s Titanic, or maybe it’s Dylan’s answer to Gordon Lightfoot’s even more ancient “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” Either way, it’s great, as is everything else on a record that is worthy of comparison with Modern Times, “Love & Theft,” John Wesley Harding, Blonde on Blonde, etc. The belated tribute to John Lennon that closes the album will break your heart all over again.

- Christopher C. Manson

The Jersey Seals

The Jersey Seals


Combining a pop-rock sensibility, punk song structures and indie rock lyrics, the Jersey Seals defy typical categorization. From echoes of bluegrass in “Practice the Art” to the piano-driven intro of “New Day, Same Melody,” this is an album about earnest experimentation. The recording isn’t polished, but that’s where much of the charm lies. At its core, this is the style of upbeat, catchy folk music that the Juno movie soundtrack springboarded into the mainstream. This Niceville-based band is a welcome addition to the local music scene.

- Nikki Hedrick

Sonny Landreth

Elemental Journey

Landfall Records

On this superb instrumental album, Landreth finds just the right mix of melancholy (“Forgotten Story”) and rocking out (“Reckless Beauty”). Joe Satriani and a few other big names turn up, but this is Landreth’s show all the way.

- Christopher C. Manson

Lionel Loueke


Blue Note

Benin-born guitarist-singer Loueke likes to move in exalted circles, including Terence Blanchard, Herbie Hancock and Gretchen Parlato. His latest as a leader was produced (and accompanied) by keyboardist Robert Glasper. Parlato joins Loueke on vocals, and there’s drum and bass as well. Loueke composed most of the 10 tracks, which blend African rhythms with steely string work that takes it out of the realm of anthropological “folk/ ethnic” music. It’s part traditional, part programmatic, and all polished and sophisticated studio jazz.

- Bruce Collier


Shape Shifter


A mostly instrumental collection that makes as strong a case as any of the numerous best-of collections for Santana’s greatness as composer, bandleader, spiritual force, and (naturally) guitar deity.

- Christopher C. Manson

Luciana Souza

Duos III


Brazilian singer Souza’s three-year recording hiatus ended with a double release in August. One album, Duos III, is 12 tracks of songs in Portuguese (the other, The Book of Chet, offers Chet Baker-inspired songs in English). Duos III features Souza variously accompanied by three guitarists—Romero Lubambo, Marco Pereira and Toninho Horta. It’s as simple as jazz gets. Souza’s voice is sometimes feathery, sometimes tinkly, and it takes formidable chops to sing as delicately and powerfully as this. A Portuguese-speaking friend once said the language was “like Spanish with a French accent.” Can’t get more romantic than that.

- Bruce Collier