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Listening Room: Rhonda Vincent, Kate Nash
Rhonda Vincent, “Good Thing Going” (Rounder) ***
The title of Rhonda Vincent’s 12th studio album is apt, since she began recording in 1990. Next to Alison Krauss, there’s been no more successful or decorated bluegrass artist than Vincent, and it’s only the lack of highprofile movie soundtracks or collaborations that’s kept the Missouri native in her labelmate’s relative shadow. “Good Thing Going” won’t necessarily be Vincent’s mass audience breakthrough, but it’s another exemplary set on which her voice is again the star, driving everything from rollicking pieces such as a cover of Jim & Jessie’s “Just One of a Kind” and “Bluegrass Saturday Night” to quieter moment such as “Scorn of a Lover,” the quietly reeling “I Give All My Love to You” — a duet with IIIrd Tyme Out’s Russell Moore that Vincent wrote for her personal assistant’s wedding — and her pretty rendition of the traditional “The Water is Wide,” on which Keith Urban provides an echo-style duet. There’s a dark tinge to some of the upbeat tracks; “I’m Leavin’,” “World’s Biggest Fool” and “Who’s Cryin’ Baby” in particular are filled with romantic loss and recrimination, letting us know that Vincent — who wrote or co-wrote five songs on the album, her most prolific output yet — wants the last word when she’s been done wrong. “I Will See You Again” steers things in a more pop direction, albeit with a spiritual tinge, while “I Gotta Start Somewhere” could fit on any mainstream country release coming out of Nash ville. Nearly two decades on, Vincent’s good thing is still going strong.
Kate Nash, “Made of Bricks” (Fiction/Geffen) ***
After sending her debut album to the top of the charts in her native Britain, 20-year-old singer-songwriter Kate Nash has established herself as a new artist to watch as she brings her musical load to these shores. The attention is merited; with a distinctly British flavor, a playful countenance and a clever lyrical and melodic sensibility, Nash — not unlike last year’s hot newcomer Lily Allen — is an intriguing listen, with a broad emotional range and a subtly textural musical approach built around piano and incorporating well-deployed touches of guitars, strings and the occasional synthesizer. She stands up to the boys on “Foundations” and “Mouthwash” but shows some softer romanticism on “Pumpkin Soup” and “Nicest Thing.” And “Skeleton Song” is an entertaining psychodrama rant to a no-skin-and-bones confidant. Nash starts the album by singing that “I like to play ...,” and we’re certainly glad of that.
New and norteworthy
• Aphrodesia, “Lagos By Bus”
(Cyberset) — Trips to Africa and Cuba provided an array of fresh influences for this American Afrobeat group.
• Johnny Cash, “Best of the Johnny Cash TV Show” (Columbia/ Legacy) — A collection of choice musical moments form the Man in Black’s two-year turn on the tube.
• The Dictators, “Every Day is Saturday” (Norton) — This rarities compilation from the New York punk forebears includes demos, outtakes, radio spots and plenty of amusing liner notes from band and crew members.
• Grupo Los Antos, “Lo Que Somos Lo Que Sea” (Deep Tone) — The New York Latin jazz troupe’s sophomore set incorporates Cuban and Brazilian flavors into its mix.
• Left Lane Cruiser, “Bring Yo’ Ass to the Table” (Alive) — The blues-rock duo from Fort Wayne, Ind., rocks the house on its first full-length album.
• Marah, “Angels of Destruction” (Yep Roc) — The Philadelphia rockers’ first album in three years broadens the sibling-led group’s sound to include jazz and oldtyme influences.
• MGMT, “Oracular Spectacular” (Columbia) — The arty, electronic-based New York duo’s majorlabel debut gets a CD release three months after it come out online.
• Original Cast, “Ring of Fire: The Musical” (Time Life) — The Man in Black on Broadway — where one can presumably find a boy or two named Sue.
• Amanda Shaw, “Pretty Runs Out” (Rounder) — The national debut by the 16-year-old fiddler and singer (and occasional actress) from New Orleans — proving that every Disney Channel teen doesn’t have to be Hannah Montana.
• The Shondes, “The Red Sea”
(self-released) — Onetime Pere Ubu producer Tony Maimone helmed this latest work by the idiosyncratic and individualist Jewish quartet from Brooklyn.
• Sia, “Some People Have Real Problems” (Hear Music/Monkey Puzzle) — The Zero 7 vocalist goes the Starbucks route for her third solo album, with Beck guesting on the track “Academia.”
• IIIrd Tyme Out, “Footprints: A IIIrd Tyme Out Collection” (Rounder) — A good chance to catch up with the popular bluegrass troupe, which recorded two new songs for this retrospective.
• Various Artists, “Ultimate
Grammy Collection — Contemporary Rock;” “Ultimate Grammy
Collection — Contemporary Country;” “Ultimate Grammy
Collection — Classic Country;” “Ultimate Grammy Collection — Classic R&B;” “Ultimate Grammy Collection — Classic Pop” (Shout! Factory) — The final five installments of the seven-CD series celebrating the Grammy Awards’ 50th anniversary.
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