april 2008

bramlettBonnie Bramlett - Beautiful by Dan Fort
With over-the-top, "American Idol: histrionics not only passing for soul but becoming mainstream in all genres, it's nice to be reminded what the real deal is. Although she came to prominence belting mini tent revivals like "Only You Know and I Know" in the late '60s, as the fairer half of Delaney & Bonnie, Ms. Bramlett knows when and how to cool things down. Like any great soul singer, from Sam Cooke to Aretha, she knows when to go for the gusto and also when to rein things in.

edwardsDavid Honeyboy Edwards - Roamin' and Ramblin' by David McGee
An expansive tip of the hat goes to producer Michael Robert Frank for the inspired idea to recreate Delta blues giant David Honeyboy Edwards’s powerful early guitar-harmonica duo teamings, few of which were ever recorded. The performances here are so ferocious and the soundscape so live that Honeyboy seems present in the room, inveighing against all manner of hard-hearted womenfolk and last fair deals gone down.

caseyKaran Casey - Ships In The Forest by Billy Altman
Lest anyone think there's even an ounce of hyperbolic blarney to the statement that singer Karan Casey is one of the brightest lights on the contemporary Celtic music scene, then perhaps the best way to begin discussing her latest CD Ships In The Forest is to say that her renditions here of "Black is the Colour (of My True Love's Hair)" and "Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye" will have you re-thinking songs you were sure you never wanted hear again in this and maybe even a few yet-to-come lifetimes.

moorerAllison Moorer - Mockingbird
Produced by Buddy Miller, Mockingbird has atmosphere to burn, with shifting, swirling instrumental textures, a discreet use of electronics, and an admirably judicious use of strings to wring that extra bit of smoldering sensuality out of, say, a deliberately rendered inquisition into "Ring of Fire" or to enhance the winsome mood Moorer adopts in reinvigorating Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now."

kennedysThe Kennedys - Better Dreams
With songs inspired by their dreams, Pete and Maura Kennedy meld '60s rock, folk and country into a stunning concept album that takes the listener from the footloose frolic of not-so-long-ago into a world of abridged civil liberties, before concluding on an upbeat note with a bracing appeal for peace.

paxtonTom Paxton - Comedians
Now 70 years old, folk music stalwart Tom Paxton is only getting better as time grants him a deeper perspective on things that matter, especially love, with which his captivating new album, Comedians & Angels, is mostly concerned. He certainly sounds great—his smooth voice is sturdy, soulful and expressive, and his phrasing is deeply nuanced, the better to heighten his telling insights and forthright confessions. Fully nine of the 15 songs are written expressly for his wife Midge, and not a single one is cloying or emotionally overwrought.

lynneShelby Lynne - Just A Little Lovin'
Audacious in all the right ways, Shelby Lynne's Dusty Springfield tribute, Just A Little Lovin', does right by everyone involved, including the artistry of the immortal pop-soul diva being honored herein. Both Lynne and her producer, Phil Ramone, have thrived in lush production environments, but for this project intimacy is all in her aching, nuanced investigation of the heart.

murrayAnne Murray - Duets
Not resting on her laurels—50 million records sold since her 1967 debut with "Snowbird"—Anne Murray has teamed with legendary producer Phil Ramone on what is certainly one of the early surprises of 2008 and, moreover, one of the best recordings of her distinguished, mega-hit-making career. Many of the songs here have been among those mega-hits, but for this special event the Canadian thrush (whose mature voice shows an appealing rough edge these days) teamed up with a cast of all-star female vocalists and revisited some of the grand moments in her recording history.

saenzMando Saenz - Bucket
Inventively produced by R.S. Field, with captivating songs of both the self-penned and collaborative kind (with Kim Richey and Will Kimbrough, notably) plus inspired musical support from redoubtable musicians on the order of guitarists Kenny Vaughn and Richard Bennett, among others, Mexico-born and Texas-raised Mando Saenz makes his sophomore album a moment to remember as the true launching point for what should be a significant career.

herringCaroline Herring - Lantana
At time poignant, at times melancholic, always tender and introspective, Caroline Herring’s beautifully realized Lantana, an album length meditation on the metaphysics of self-realization and the real world of parenting, growing and growing up, is a record that burrows discreetly into the soul and knocks around in there demanding more than easy answers to big questions about survival.

basileAl Basile - The Tinge
Add one of the most genial, invigorating albums of the year to Al Basile's sterling resume. The Tinge—so named because the artist's 13 original songs are neither fish nor fowl stylistically, but rather colored (tinged) by multiple styles—unites Basile with his first music business employer, Roomful of Blues's Duke Robillard, whose steady hand is felt as both producer and guitarist.

Recent Issues

(For all back issues go to the Archive)


Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (www.johnmendelsohn.com)
Website Design: Kieran McGee (www.kieranmcgee.com)
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY; www.flickr.com/audreyharrod), Alicia Zappier (New York)
E-mail: thebluegrassspecial@gmail.com
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024