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NEIL DIAMOND, The Bang Years 1966-1968--Let us all agree that for this moment in time, Neil Diamond made rock ‘n’ roll of an exalted order, took it seriously as a means of communicating deeply personal revelations, not always flattering to himself, and left behind a body of work as real as it is lasting, as if one doesn’t go hand in hand with the other. Behold the real deal, the real Neil.
PAUL PIGAT, Boxcar Campfire-- In last month’s issue, Paul Pigat appeared in his guise as Cousin Harley on his new album It’s a Sin, dealing some fairly incendiary rockabilly, merciless rock ‘n’ roll and elegant Les Paul-styled pop. Released concurrently with It’s a Sin, Boxcar Campfire bears Pigat’s birth name, more acoustic than electric guitar, some fancy fingerpicking, a decided bent towards country and Delta blues, an atmosphere alternately laid-back and tense and some striking vocals steeped in a wry, weathered, unsentimental perspective born of experience in life its ownself. In case you didn’t get the drift, it’s also one terrific album—certainly an ideal counterpart to the fiery It’s a Sin, but in its own right a thoughtful, soulful keeper of a long player.
RORY BLOCK, Shake ‘Em On Down-- Coming in the wake of her impressive tributes to Robert Johnson (The Lady and Mr. Johnson) and Son House (Blues Walkin’ Like a Man), this tribute to Mississippi Fred McDowell has a twofold purpose: to allow Ms. Block to honor a bluesman who had a major impact on her own music, and to further her idea for constructing a “Mentor Series” of albums saluting the great blues masters of the past whose paths she crossed in her youthful, striving days and from whom she learned the ins and outs of the type of blues she most loves. As she did with Son House’s songs, Ms. Block strives not for exact replications but for the soul of the performance. Based on her own liner notes, she did a meticulous study of McDowell’s hard-driving riffing style, and then found her own voice and took it home over the course of a dozen tunes, some of which she wrote herself based on a McDowell riff or his history.